San Juan, PR (SportsNetwork.com) - The 17th-ranked Connecticut Huskies will try to add to their trophy case on Sunday when they meet the West Virginia Mountaineers in the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Coliseo Roberto Clemente.
Powered by Ryan Boatright, the defending national champion Huskies have grinded through the first two rounds of this weekend's tournament, earning wins over the College of Charleston (65-57) and Dayton (75-64). They are now 3-0 overall, with six of their next seven games at home, including a critical showdown against No. 10 Texas next Sunday.
West Virginia navigated its way to the title tilt with wins over George Mason (91-65) and Boston College (70-66). Add in victories against Monmouth (64-54) and Lafayette (83-56) and the Mountaineers are sitting at 4-0 overall. They will visit VMI in their next outing.
These former Big East Conference rivals have met 21 times previously. UConn has claimed victory in 16 of those contests, including a 71-67 verdict during the 2012 Big East Tournament.
Boatright put on a show once again in lifting UConn over Dayton. He scored a game-high 20 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Huskies were tied with the Flyers at halftime (41-41), but they separated themselves down the stretch by playing tight defense, as Dayton only shot 38.6 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes.
The first three games of the season have certainly illustrated that Boatright is ready to be the leader of this team. He is averaging 21 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals per game, albeit in a sample size of just three contests. Highly-touted recruit Daniel Hamilton played the best game of his brief college career on Friday, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He is currently second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) among players who have played in all three games. Rodney Purvis, who poured in 19 points against Dayton, missed one game but he will be a big help in the backcourt going forward.
Four different players scored in double figures for West Virginia, which made up for a lackluster 42.4 percent shooting effort against Boston College by forcing 21 turnovers. Juwan Staten tied two of his teammates (Devin Williams and Jevon Carter) for the scoring lead, as he tallied 15 points to go with four assists before fouling out.
Staten, who averaged 18.1 points, 58 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game last season, has gotten off to a slow start, especially in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (2 rpg). However, he is still the best playmaker on the team and has done solid work as a passer (4.5 apg). Williams (15.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg) has helped pick up the slack, although he is only shooting 39.5 percent from the floor. He had 15 points and only three rebounds against Boston College. Jonathan Holton (11 ppg, 8.5 rpg) does a nice job at both ends of the floor.