PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Connecticut's top scorer was erratic and its coach had been ejected. Fortunately for the ninth-ranked Huskies, their defense was strong and their opponent weak.
Connecticut beat Providence 63-56 Tuesday night, allowing just one field goal after coach Jim Calhoun left with three technical fouls -- the last two contributing to four free throws that tied the game 47-47 with 8:47 left.
"A terrific, terrific performance defensively for us in the last eight minutes," Calhoun said.
They might not have needed it if Richard Hamilton, averaging 22.5 points per game, had scored more than four points and hadn't missed 11 of 13 shots.
"I was getting in good position to shoot the ball and the shots weren't falling," said Hamilton, who had one less field goal than his coach had technicals. "It was a bad game for me all around."
It was an outstanding game for 6-foot-7 Kevin Freeman, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds as Connecticut dominated inside against the smaller Friars, who were outrebounded 43-21, their lowest rebounding total of the season.
Connecticut (18-3, 8-2 Big East) also got 10 points and 11 rebounds from Jake Voskuhl. Providence (8-10, 3-6) got 26 points from Jamel Thomas, 16 from Erron Maxey and only 14 from the rest of its players.
"For us to win against teams in the Big East, any team in the Big East, we need four or five guys to show up. We really had only two," Providence coach Pete Gillen said.
Those two also combined for 13 of their team's 21 rebounds, four of the 10 steals and only four of the 16 turnovers.
"We had been playing man-to-man," said Freeman, who had missed Saturday's win at Syracuse with a severely sprained right wrist. "Then in the last eight minutes we knew we had to stop Thomas and Maxey."
The Friars were able to stop Connecticut's top two scorers, Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin, who had nine points. But they got plenty of help, and Freeman said Calhoun's ejection helped.
"I figured if he had that much emotion and wanted us to win that badly, we should have the same emotion," Freeman said.
"We tried to keep on their top two scorers," Gillen said, but ``Freeman would get the rebound and stick it back."
Hamilton scored fewer than 10 points for only the seventh time in 53 games, all starts, in his two seasons with Connecticut.
Connecticut led 28-24 at halftime and Calhoun got his first technical 3:13 into the second half. Thomas made both shots, cutting the lead to 34-32.
Calhoun picked up his second technical -- and an automatic ejection -- with 8:47 left after a foul call against Providence. As he was leaving the bench he was hit with his third technical. It apparently was something he said, since he was hardly demonstrative on any of the technicals.
He wouldn't shed any light on them after the game.
After Thomas' four free throws tied the game, the Huskies turned up the defense and went ahead to stay on Voskuhl's two free throws with 5:52 to go.
El-Ain made it 52-47 with a 3-pointer before a three-point play by Maxey cut the lead to two. Then Freeman made a dunk before Llewellyn Cole's free throw left Connecticut ahead 54-51.
But Gillen had taken his last timeout with 6:05 left and could only stop the clock by fouling. The Huskies made seven of eight free throws over the last three minutes.
The only field goal was Hamilton's with 2:06 to go that gave Connecticut a 58-51 lead.
The first half was a series of spurts.
Connecticut went out to a 15-6 lead in the first 10 minutes before a 9-0 Providence run tied the score 15-15 on Justin Farley's 3-pointer with 7:50 left.
The Huskies followed with a 10-0 surge, then Providence got the next six points to close within 25-21 with 2:01 left.