The game officially reached blowout status midway through the first half when UConn went on a 14-0 run in just over three minutes against a hapless DePaul squad. By the time the Blue Demons finally converted a bucket, the score was 30-14. It was 45-28 at the half, and when all was said and done, the Huskies cruised to a 97-71 victory.
Save a few lapses in the second half, there were so many things to like about UConn's performance in the first-round of the Big East Tournament. It started with freshman Jeremy Lamb putting on a show, and perhaps offered a glimpse into what a post-Kemba team might look like next season.
Lamb apparently suffered a knee injury in the season-finale loss to Notre Dame on Sunday, but you wouldn't know it to watch him against the Blue Demons. He had 17 first-half points as Kemba Walker used the first 20 minutes to get settled in.
Because the Huskies would need their first-team all conference guard in the second half, when DePaul put together several runs to cut UConn's lead to less than 10 points. And every time it looked like the Blue Demons would threaten, Walker would take over, making a big shot, converting a big pass or, on one occasion, taking a charge. After scoring just seven points in the first half, Walker ended the afternoon with 26 to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.
But that's Kemba being Kemba; we have come to expect efforts like that because he's done it all season. But Lamb carrying the team early, and Alex Oriakhi coming off the bench to contribute 13 points and 19 rebounds, is both unexpected and much needed.
Freshman point guard Shabazz Napier added 11 points, eight assists and four steals, and it's only a matter of time before we're talking about him and Lamb as one of the nation's most formidable backcourts. For now, the youth movement continues.
UConn's Achilles' heel this season has been perimeter shooting against zone defenses, and inconsistencies rebounding the ball. Neither was a problem against DePaul. The Huskies won the rebound battle, 44-20. And while they shot just 25 percent from beyond the arc (on 2-of-8 shooting), it didn't matter because they converted 60 percent of their looks in and around the paint (33 for 55). Even more impressive: UConn outscored DePaul 26-2 on fast-break points.
Other than some sloppy turnovers midway through the second half, it was a dominating performance. Walker got some help from his young teammates, the defense was stout, rebounding was a priority and there wasn't a reliance on three-pointers to keep the Huskies in the game.
Things were going so well that Walker didn't even play 40 minutes, a figure he's average in UConn's last seven games. He went to the bench for a quick breather in the first half and stayed there for good with 2:26 left in the second half. It's not a lot, but it's something. Especially since there is no rest for the weary. The Huskies face Georgetown on Wednesday at noon.