Friday , Mar , 26 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

UConn rolls over Commodores

Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Ben Gordon scored 20 points and Rashad Anderson
added 15, lifting Connecticut to a 73-53 victory over Vanderbilt in a Phoenix
Region semifinal game at America West Arena.

Connecticut, the second seed, moves on to face Alabama on Saturday with a
trip to the Final Four on the line.

Emeka Okafor and Taliek Brown each chipped in 12 points for Connecticut
(30-6), which led most of the way and held off a second-half run to earn
its sixth straight victory. Okafor also grabbed 11 boards for the Huskies,
who have now won all three of their tournament games by a least 17 points.

Mario Moore and Corey Smith led sixth-seeded Vanderbilt (23-10) with 12 points
apiece. Matt Freije, the Commodores leading scorer, finished the contest with
just eight points on 3-of-18 shooting. In Vanderbilt’s come-from-behind
second-round win over North Carolina State, Freije had 31 points.

“I felt like every one of [the shots] was going to go down, or at least a
majority of them, but they seemed to all rattle out,” Freije said

The Commodores, though, were outclassed in this one, getting overwhelmed by
the immensely talented Huskies in just about every aspect of the game.
Connecticut held a 44-21 advantage on the boards in the contest and hit 53
percent of its shots (27-of-51). UConn also won the battles of points in the
paint (40-22), second chance points (19-2) and fastbreak points (10-2).

Vanderbilt struggled from the floor throughout the contest, making just 35
percent (20-of-57) of its shot attempts.

“We did a great job of contending every shot,” said Huskies forward Josh

Anderson helped Connecticut take control of the contest, scoring 10 points
during a 17-1 burst that made it 25-8 just over 10 minutes into the game.
After Charlie Villanueva came off the bench and started the run with a dunk,
Anderson converted a layup. Gordon then followed with a three-pointer before
Anderson ripped off the next eight points — two free throws and two three-
pointers — for the Huskies.

The Commodores, in their first NCAA Tournament and Sweet 16 since 1997, never
got anything going in the first half, hitting just 30 percent (9-of-30) of
their shots.

Connecticut, meanwhile, put on an almost flawless exhibition. They dominated
the boards to the tune of a 23-10 advantage, shot 57 percent (17-of-30) from
the floor and held a 45-27 lead at the break.

The Huskies, though, weren’t quite as sharp in the second half as they turned
the ball over eight times within the first eight minutes.

Vanderbilt was quick to capitalize on the miscues. After Boone started the
second half with a dunk, the Commodores embarked on an 18-5 run. Moore and
David Przybyszewski each scored five points during the spurt, pulling
Vanderbilt within 52-45 with 12:16 remaining.

But Connecticut was too strong, answering immediately with eight straight
points, the first three on a shot from behind the arc by Anderson, to push the
lead back up to 15. The Commodores never threatened again.

“We showed some fight and grit in the second half by making a game out of it,”
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “But when you get down big to a team as
good as Connecticut, you will have a hard time coming back.”

The Huskies returned to a familiar site in Phoenix for this contest, a place
they played through on their way to the national title in 1999.