Connecticut's Rodney Purvis drives to the basket as UMass-Lowell's Dontavious Smith, right, defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Hartford, Conn. Purvis scored a career-high 28 points in UConn's 88-79 win.
Jessica Hill
December 20, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) UConn, playing without its starting center, had a tough time making defensive stops against UMass-Lowell on Sunday.

It was the Huskies' second consecutive game shooting over 60 percent from the floor that helped them beat the River Hawks 88-79 in the first meeting between the two programs.

Rodney Purvis scored a season-high 28 points and Daniel Hamilton had 12 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Sterling Gibbs scored 15 points and Omar Calhoun chipped in 14 points for the No. 25 Huskies (7-3).

''Luckily, our shots were falling today,'' Purvis said. ''If they wasn't, we would have been in a dog fight because we couldn't get stops defensively.''

Jahad Thomas led UMass-Lowell (4-7) with 19 points and Josh Gantz had 18. Matt Harris and Isaac White each scored 11.

UConn made 64 percent of its shots from the floor, while Lowell shot 50 percent.

The Huskies led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but a 3-pointer by UMass-Lowell's D.J. Mlachnik closed the gap to 81-75 with under 2 minutes left. UConn made seven of its eight foul shots down the stretch to hold off the River Hawks.

''We played well,'' Lowell coach Pat Duquette said. ''I think we can go home for the holiday break feeling good about ourselves. If that's a moral victory, than sure.''

The Huskies led by six points at halftime and just 62-55 before a 7-0 run capped by a Purvis jumper and 3-pointer on consecutive possessions. The junior guard, who has been in double figures in every game this season and was a point short of his career high Sunday, hit 10 of his 14 shots from the floor, including five of eight from 3-point range.

''He's doing a good job,'' UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. ''He's leading on the court, off the court, defensively. In our drills he's leading. He's the first one in sprints.''

The Huskies were without 7-foot Amida Brimah, who suffered a testicular contusion against Ohio State last week. Brimah is averaging more than three blocked shots a game, and UConn clearly missed his defensive presence early on.

The River Hawks' Matt Harris hit two 3-pointers, and the team used a 7-0 run to take a 20-13 lead and force Ollie to take a timeout.

''We don't know how to play defense without (Amida),'' Hamilton said. ''It was kind of tough. Somebody has to protect the paint.''

The Huskies went to a full-court press and took the lead back 26-25 when Hamilton found Phil Nolan under the basket for a layup.

UConn hit 67 percent of its shots in the first half yet had a 43-37 lead at halftime.

A 3-pointer from Purvis gave UConn its first double-digit lead at 51-41 early in the second half, but Ryan Jones responded with a 3-pointer for the River Hawks.

UConn outrebounded UMass-Lowell 30-18. The River Hawks have only three players taller than 6-foot-4 and none taller than 6-foot-8.

UMass-Lowell, which started the season 3-2, has lost five of its six games in December. The lone win came Dec. 6 over a Boston College team that was depleted by food poisoning. Lowell has eight first-year players on its roster.

TIP-INS

UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks have lost two straight road games to teams from Connecticut, including an 83-79 loss Friday to Central Connecticut - UConn's next opponent.

UConn: Brimah had played in a team-high 84 consecutive games dating back to his freshman season and had started 44 straight. The team says his injury is not serious and his absence was precautionary. Daniel Hamilton leads the team in consecutive games with 45.

HOT SHOTS

UConn, which shot 60.4 percent against Ohio State in its last game, pushed its season shooting average to 50.3 percent. Purvis also has hit 50 percent of his shots this season and is shooting 44 percent from 3-point range.

UP NEXT

UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks, who have seven of their eight games on the road this month, will head to Piscataway, New Jersey, to face Rutgers on Dec. 28.

UConn: The Huskies host Central Connecticut on Wednesday before taking on the Texas Longhorns on Dec. 29 in Austin, Texas.

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