STORRS — Sterling Gibbs scored a season-high 26 points, hitting five 3-pointers and seven clutch free throws as UConn held off Memphis 81-78 in a tight game at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies (11-4, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) were trailing 75-74 with 52 seconds to play, but two free throws from Gibbs put them in the lead for good.
Luckily for UConn, Shaq Goodwin fouled out with under two minutes to play. He had been a killer all night, scoring 23 points, 11 from the foul line after going hard to the rim. His absence made it difficult for Memphis to get back in it.
Daniel Hamilton had another rough night for the Huskies, though he put up a solid stat line with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assts. The sophomore star shot 2 of 11 from the field, as most of his points came from the line. He had a hard time with his dribble throughout the game. He turned the ball over three times.
A major part of UConn's success Saturday night was the play of Kentan Facey and Phil Nolan. With Amida Brimah out, the bigs have struggled to make an impact, which has made it hard for UConn to be successful on either side of the ball. Nolan and Facey combined for 14 points and nine rebounds, with Facey adding five blocks. UConn had nine blocks as a team, an incredible accomplishment without Brimah.
UConn shot the ball much better overall Saturday than it did against Temple. The Huskies shot 42.6 percent from the field (23-for-54) and were 9 of 19 from behind the arc. Hamilton and Rodney Purvis each made two.
Purvis was aggressive all game. There seemed to be an energy that had been missing in recent games, as Purvis, Gibbs and Hamilton attacked the rim, setting up big opportunities for the Huskies throughout the game.
Memphis managed to stick around way longer than it should have. When UConn would make a big shot, the Tigers answered right back, even if the shooter was well guarded. With 52 seconds to play, Avery Woodson buried a three from the corner by the Memphis bench—the same spot where Texas and Yale beat UConn from last season—to give the Tigers a 75-74 lead. UConn managed to get back in front quickly, scoring six straight points.
Trahson Burrell hit another three in front of the bench with three seconds left, cutting the Huskies' lead to 80-78. Hamilton made one of two free throws, and Kevin Ollie called timeout, allowing Memphis to set up a final inbounds play. The ball got to Dedric Lawson, who was being covered by Nolan and unable to get a shot off before the horn.
UConn returns to action Thursday, when the Huskies visit Tulsa at the start of a two-game weekend on the road. They visit Houston next Sunday.