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HARTFORD — Gliding along with a consistent but uninspiring lead over the first 35 minutes on Sunday afternoon, UConn decided to turn up the defensive pressure.

It worked.

The Huskies turned Maine over 10 times over about a four-minute span early in the latter half to break things open and cruise to a 64-40 non-conference win before 7,129 at the XL Center.

Tyler Polley’s 3-pointer kicked off that stretch, in which UConn (5-2) outscored the Black Bears 17-2 to open up a 20-point lead. Brendan Adams was the spark, snaring four steals in the first seven minutes of the latter half and scoring six of UConn’s seven points during one span — including a thunderous dunk in transition.

“That felt good,” the sophomore guard said, with a smile. “That felt real good.”

The Huskies wound up forcing Maine (2-5) into a whopping 28 turnovers — the most UConn has forced in a game since turning over Fairfield 28 times in a 100-66 win on Dec. 22, 2000.

It was exactly UConn’s game plan against the Black Bears, a methodical team that tries to keep the score in the 50’s and was also without their starting point guard, Sergio El Darwich, who hurt his ankle in a 46-26 loss at No. 7 Virginia last week.

“Coach was emphasizing all week, we need to pressure them for 40 minutes,” noted senior guard Christian Vital, “and if you didn’t do that you’re coming out of the game.”

“We’ve got a lot of depth, so we can run guards and bigs in and out and keep pressuring the ball,” added Adams. “In the second half, we just did a better job of it.”

Not that eternally tough-to-please head coach Dan Hurley was overly excited about the overall performance.

“I was thrilled with the first two minutes,” Hurley said, “and happier with the last 20.”

Indeed, UConn, which never trailed, jumped out to an 11-2 start behind a pair of 3-pointers from Alterique Gilbert and five points from Tyler Polley. However, the Huskies followed with an 0-for-12 drought over a 7-minute, 5-second span, during which Maine closed to within a point.

A James Bouknight tip-in finally ended the drought, and the Huskies opened their lead to as much as nine (31-22) after five straight Adams points before the break. UConn held a 31-24 lead at halftime, behind 11 points from Gilbert and nine from Polley.

Maine was back to within five (35-30) three minutes into the latter half when Hurley called a timeout.

“Disappointing start to that half there,” said Hurley. “Josh (Carlton) had two opportunities at the rim, one off a catch, one off a finish ... right out of the chute, it should have gone from seven to 14. But it shows the distance we have as a program to play the way we need to play to be a good team.”

Still, the Huskies bounced back out of the timeout with a 10-0 run keyed by Adams, and, after a Maine basket, a Vital layup, Bouknight 3-pointer and Jalen Gaffney steal and layup that put the Huskies up 20.

Bouknight continued the impressive start to his freshman campaign with a team-high 15 points, including a jaw-dropping, two-handed putback dunk of his own miss late in the game. Gilbert finished with 13, Polley 12 and Adams 11.

“Brendan’s probably gonna be on SportsCenter tonight, dunking on somebody,” Vital noted. “Bouk caught his own miss ... I don’t know what he did, he did something crazy, too. We’re all athletic players who can make plays for each other or ourselves.”

“Really impressed with what Coach Hurley’s been able to do in a short period of time,” Maine coach Richard Barron said. “He’s brought in some really talented players. That showed.”

Even if Hurley wasn’t as impressed as everyone else on Sunday afternoon.

“I didn’t think we were great today,” Hurley said. “I thought we had some breakdowns, and we’ll look to get them fixed.”


 Redshirt sophomore forward Sid Wilson didn’t dress for the game due to a left knee injury. Coach Hurley had called him a gametime decision on Friday. Wilson hurt his knee while blocking a shot late in UConn’s win over Miami a week earlier in the Charleston Classic. For a couple of days after the tournament, there was some real concern that Wilson’s knee, which had a lot of pain and inflammation on Monday, might be serious. But it turned out to be a deep muscle bruise, and there is hope he’ll be able to play on Wednesday against Iona.