HARTFORD, Conn. — UConn coach Kevin Ollie’s decision to go with a smaller lineup has paid off in a big way for the Huskies.
Ryan Boatright scored 23 points and dished out eight assists Thursday as the defending national champions routed Tulsa 70-45.
Rodney Purvis added 17 points and Daniel Hamilton added 11 points and 11 rebounds as UConn (14-9, 7-4 American) won its third straight game.
The streak has coincided with Ollie’s decision to move the 6-foot-7 Hamilton from small forward to power forward, giving the Huskies four players on the floor who can handle the basketball.
“We get up and down the floor a lot faster,” said Boatright. “The transition speed is high and on the defensive end we irritate. We’re into you for 94 feet.”
Marquel Curtis had 15 points to lead the Golden Hurricane (17-7, 10-2), who have now lost two in a row after a 12-game winning streak.
Tulsa’s leading scorer, James Woodard had 21 points in an eight-point win over the Huskies a month ago in Oklahoma, but was held without a point in this one, missing all seven of his shots.
It was the worst scoring performance of the season for Tulsa, which had a previous low of 54 points in a win over Auburn in November.
“It’s going to be tough for us when James Woodard doesn’t score to win any games,” said Tulsa coach Frank Haith.
UConn scored the first 10 points and never trailed. They were up by nine at halftime, went on a 7-0 run to open the second half and won by 25.
The Huskies shot 51 percent from the floor and outrebounded Tulsa 39-30.
“It was a great game by us, probably our most complete game from top to bottom, defensively and offensively,” said Ollie.
Hamilton opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers from the left of the key and the Huskies led 15-4 before going into a five-minute scoring drought.
Tulsa shot just 28 percent in the half, made just 1 of 10 first-half shots from 3-point range and never threatened to take the lead.
UConn shot just 38 percent from the floor, but went into halftime up 26-17. It was just the eighth time this season the Huskies have led after the first 20 minutes.
They came out strong in the second half as well. A 13-foot jump shot by Amida Brimah from the right of the lane gave UConn its first 20-plus point lead at 41-20. The 7-foot sophomore finished with nine points and blocked seven shots, giving him 165 in just 63 career games.
UConn, which turned the ball over 15 times in the first meeting, had just seven turnovers in this one.
The Golden Hurricane came into the day with a half-game lead in the conference over SMU, which played later Thursday night.
Tulsa came into the game with an RPI ranking of 44. UConn was ranked No. 97 and the defending champions need to continue winning just to get back on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
“Coming off a national championship, it wouldn’t be right going to the NIT,” said Hamilton. “So we’ve just got to come out every game like its out last game.”
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane are 13-0 when leading at the half this season, but fell to 4-7 when trailing at the break.
UConn: The Huskies were playing in their 332nd game at their home away from home in Hartford. UConn is now 245-87 at the XL Center and 7-1 against teams from the American Athletic Conference. This was the Huskies fifth straight home win.
Boatright has now scored at least 20 points in five of his last six games.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane have five days off as they head back to Oklahoma for a three-game home stand that starts on Feb. 18 against East Carolina.
UConn: The Huskies hit the road for games Saturday at SMU and next Thursday in Memphis. UConn traveled more than 10,500 miles in January and also has road trips coming up to North Carolina and Philadelphia.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press