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UConn Has Easy First Round

Connecticut prides itself as a team of runs. On Thursday night, the top-seeded Huskies showed why.

Richard Hamilton had 28 points as Connecticut, playing without ailing coach Jim Calhoun, closed the first half with a 18-1 run en route to a 91-66 victory over Texas-San Antonio in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

"We showed that we have spurt-ability, and we just continued to put the pressure on them," said point guard Khalid El-Amin, who had a career-high 10 assists.

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  • Kevin Freeman added 16 points for the Huskies, whose devastating first-half run quashed any hope Texas-San Antonio had of becoming the first 16th-seed to beat a No. 1 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

    With Connecticut's victory in the West Regional and Auburn's victory in the South, top seeds are 58-0 in the first round over the past 15 years.

    "As much as I was talking about a miracle to (the media), behind the scenes I was talking about, `Why not us?"' Texas-San Antonio coach Tim Carter said. "We scored 39 in the second half, and they scored 39. If that big run doesn't take place in the first half, who knows what would have happened."

    The Huskies (29-2), trying to reach their first Final Four in 13 seasons under Calhoun, will play ninth-seeded New Mexico (25-8) on Saturday. The Lobos beat eighth-seeded Missouri 61-59.

    Calhoun, who has guided Connecticut to eight NCAA appearances, attended the team shootaround Thursday morning but missed the game after developing "virus-like" symptoms.

    "It wasn't in our or his best interest to have him here when he is feeling the way he is right now," assistant coach Dave Leitao said. "He is happy with the way we played and doing the things we talked about a couple of days ago."

    Steve Meyer had 18 points, including two on an aesome one-handed follow dunk, and Leon Watson added 13 for Texas-San Antonio (18-11), which was making only its second NCAA tournament appearance.

    "Nobody really gave up," Meyer said. "This is only the second time we've ever been here, so we just wanted to go out and play. We're trying to build a program that's going to be successful, and hopefully tonight didn't hurt that."

    Despite their postseason inexperience, the Roadrunners kept the game close early on, leading 19-17 with 11:45 left in the first half.

    Carter said he was hoping the lights would go out at that point, but it was all Connecticut the rest of the way.

    The Huskies, who scored the first 13 points of their Big East tournament championship victory last week, went on a 13-2 run and followed it with the 18-1 run over the final 6:48 of the half to lead 52-27 at the break.

    Hamilton punctuated the push, driving the length of the court and banking in an 8-foot shot at the buzzer.

    "He's an extremely smooth basketball player," Carter said. "He seems to play with not a lot of effort, but he can flat play. I got ticked off at my post man. They got in a little shoving match, and he pushed Richard. I said, `Don't get him ticked off.' I was extremely impressed with him."

    Texas-San Antonio missed seven straight shots and committed six of their 14 first-half turnovers in the last seven minutes as Connecticut scored the final 15 points of the half.

    The Roadrunners, who won the Southland Conference tournament, never got closer than 18 points after halftime. They finished 3-of-17 from 3-point range.

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