HARTFORD, Conn. - No. 1 Connecticut enters its holiday break confident and healthy.
Emeka Okafor’s chronic back pain is gone. Taliek Brown has overcome hip and toe injuries and has his speed back.
And Ben Gordon? He just keeps going, recording one of his best games Saturday with his first triple-double in UConn’s 104-54 rout of Iona.
The junior guard finished with 16 rebounds, 11 assists, both career highs, and 17 points.
“I was getting a lot of long rebounds and tried to chase down every loose ball that was near me,” Gordon said. “It’s good to go into the break with this kind of game for the team. Everybody just contributed today.”
This was the first game for the Huskies (8-1) since they reclaimed their top ranking this week.
The game also marked the return of Okafor, who missed last week’s 88-55 win over Quinnipiac because of back problems. He had 24 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks against the Gaels (2-5), who were held to 29 percent shooting.
The Huskies have won five straight and have held the last three opponents to under 30 percent shooting.
“Every time they tried to spin to the middle we had people waiting for them. That’s a great sign for us,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “I like sitting there knowing you’re going to have a tough time scoring on us.”
By halftime, Gordon had turned in one of his best stretches of defense. He pulled down 11 boards, all defensive, and had three of his five steals.
“We were calling him Wilt Chamberlain at halftime because he had 11 rebounds,” Brown said.
In the closing seconds, he nearly crashed into the Iona bench to save the ball. He recovered, ran back on the court in time to field a pass and set up Okafor with 18 seconds left. Gordon closed the half with a rebound and UConn ahead 49-28.
“Ben was just possessed today,” Okafor said. “At times I didn’t feel like I was even needed. I kind of just wanted to watch him do his thing.”
Greg Jackson led Iona with 14 points and nine rebounds. DeShaun Williams added 12 points.
“We just had too many careless turnovers and it buried us,” Iona coach Jeff Ruland said. “We didn’t show how good we are capable of being, but we haven’t shown that all year yet, so we have some work ahead.”
Gordon finished with 15 defensive rebounds. Denham Brown matched a career-high with 22 points for UConn, which included a personal-best six 3-pointers. His outside shooting countered Iona’s triple team of Okafor all game.
The guard play of Gordon and Brown kept the Huskies running all day. UConn finished with 23 transition points and 31 points off 23 Iona turnovers.
“We were out there running,” Brown said. “The big guys finished, Ben was amazing. So everything was just going great for us.”
CBT: Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski made it official that he'll be coaching Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and he'll also be with Duke at least that long, too.
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