Hasheem Thabeet had 21 points and 18 rebounds, Jeff Adrien added 18 points, and No. 2 Connecticut survived a big scare, holding off Buffalo 68-64 on Thursday night.
The Bulls (3-3) nearly upset then-No. 2 Pittsburgh at Alumni Arena two years ago, losing 70-67 after leading by 10 points with 14 minutes left. A repeat performance seemed unlikely against the Huskies (8-0), who won their first seven games by an average of 24 points.
But Rodney Pierce had other ideas, scoring a career-high 28 points to keep Buffalo close the entire game.
Pierce had a chance to force overtime in the final seconds with the Bulls trailing 66-64, but Max Boudreau bobbled his pass in the lane with 4 seconds left and Kemba Walker made two free throws for the Huskies.
Pierce was 10-for-19 overall from the field, including 2-for-2 on 3, and made all six free throws he attempted.
Despite his team's struggles, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun remained relatively low-key, no doubt expecting his Huskies to eventually take charge.
A dunk by Adrien with 10:40 left moved the Huskies within 51-50 and started a 15-5 run. Craig Austrie's 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Connecticut a 57-53 lead with 6:32 left.
After Pierce replied with a 3, Austrie fed Thabeet for a wide-open dunk and Thabeet followed with a layup off the glass for a 63-56 lead at 4:22.
The Bulls weren't about to go away quietly. Two free throws by Pierce closed the gap to 66-62 with 75 seconds left.
Jerome Dyson then missed a drive in the lane, Thabeet was called for a foul, and Pierce made two more free throws to make it 66-64 with 40.6 seconds left.
Walker was called for a travel on the inbounds pass, giving Buffalo the ball with 37.3 seconds left. Pierce tried a baseline drive, couldn't get the ball past Thabeet underneath, but he snared the rebound and called time out with 18.9 seconds left to set up the final chance.
Austrie finished with 10 points and A.J. Price and Dyson each had six. Austrie and Dyson, who entered the game averaging a team-leading 16.7 points, didn't arrive in Buffalo until three hours before tipoff because of academic commitments back in Connecticut.
Buffalo matched the Huskies on the boards with 37 rebounds, committed only six turnovers, but was called for 24 fouls to 10 for UConn.
Alumni Arena wasn't a sellout on this night, mostly because Buffalo's football team was to play Ball State for the MAC championship on Friday night in Detroit and many fans had already departed for that game.
But Pierce had the hometown fans that did come on their feet at the outset, hitting his first four shots from the field in the first three minutes as the Bulls raced to an 8-2 lead.
The enthusiasm never waned as the Bulls matched UConn shot for shot in the opening half behind Pierce, who made his first seven shots and scored 17 points before the break.
There were 15 lead changes and four ties in the game, and Buffalo held the biggest lead, 24-16, after a backdoor layup by Sean Smiley at 9:50.
After Adrien's dunk moved the Huskies within 24-21 at 8:20 of the first half, neither team led by more than three points until Thabeet's free throws gave Connecticut the 57-53 lead.