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STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Sterling Gibbs picked a perfect night for his best game with UConn.
The graduate transfer from Seton Hall scored 26 points, and No. 23 UConn edged Memphis 81-78 on Saturday.
"This was definitely a special night for me," Gibbs said. "I was able to help the team and help us get a big win. I hadn't been shooting the ball well."
UConn (11-4, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) bounced back from a home loss to Temple with its sixth win in seven games. Rodney Purvis scored 13 points, Daniel Hamilton had 12 points and eight rebounds, and Shonn Miller finished with 11 points.
Gibbs, who averaged 16.5 points last year with the Pirates, was shooting just 39 percent this season and averaging 11.5 points. He made seven of his 11 shots against Memphis, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. It was his highest-scoring game of the season.
Memphis' Shaq Goodwin scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half before fouling out.
Connecticut led by as many as eight points in the second half, before Goodwin led a rally by the Tigers (10-5, 1-1).
Avery Woodson hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Memphis a 75-74 lead with 52 seconds left. But Gibbs and Hamilton combined to hit six key foul shots to give the Huskies an 80-75 advantage.
Trahson Burrell made a 3-pointer to get Memphis within two points at 80-78 with 2.3 seconds left. But after Hamilton hit one of two foul shots, a 3-pointer from Memphis freshman Dedric Lawson at the buzzer hit the rim and bounced away.
"We overcame all that stuff and we played tough," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "I'm very excited about how the team bounced back from a tough Temple loss."
Burrell had 17 points, Ricky Tarrant Jr. added 15 and Lawson finished with 10. The Tigers had won eight of their previous 10 games.
Memphis spent much of the second half in foul trouble.
Lawson picked up his fourth foul just six minutes into the half. Goodwin picked up his third and fourth fouls in a three-second span, and Markel Crawford picked up his fourth on the next trip down the floor.
A steal and a dunk by Purvis on the Huskies' next trip gave UConn a 62-54 lead, its largest of the night.
"We can't have self-inflicted wounds on some of these games, that's biting us in the butt," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said.
Goodwin kept Memphis in the game on the offensive end, driving into the lane and drawing fouls on UConn. A free throw with 3:37 left got Memphis within five at 71-66. Two more a minute later cut the Huskies' lead to one at 71-70.
He drew a fourth foul on Miller with 1:32 left and tied at 72. But Goodwin fouled Miller on the other end and fouled out of the game.
Miller hit both free throws to give UConn a 74-72 lead.
Hamilton, who was 2 of 13 from the floor against Temple, hit just two of his 11 shots in this one.
But a game after shooting just 31.6 percent from the floor, the Huskies shot 42.6 percent. They also scored 23 points off 13 Memphis turnovers, and blocked nine shots.
Gibbs had a rocky start, picking up a first-half technical foul for shoving Burrell. A jumper by Lawson completed a four-point possession, the key play in a 10-2 run that gave Memphis an early 18-11 lead.
Goodwin, coming off a one-game suspension, had two early dunks for Memphis, but also two early fouls and played just four minutes before intermission. The Huskies led 39-37 at the half.
Goodwin sat out the Tigers' win over Nicholls State on Tuesday for tripping South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell last week after Thornwell fell into the Tigers' bench. Video showed Goodwin grabbing Thornwell's foot when he tried to head down court during South Carolina's 86-76 win.
Memphis: The Tigers, who came in averaging seven blocked shots a game and ranked second in Division I in shot blocking, knocked away just three against the Huskies. Memphis now has 94 for the season.
UConn: The Huskies have been outrebounded in their first three conference games. Memphis won the rebounding battle 42-29.
CENTER OF ATTENTION
UConn senior center Phil Nolan, who had been averaging just 6 minutes a game, played 16 against Memphis, scoring seven points and grabbing four rebounds. He platooned with Kenan Facey, 6-foot-10 junior who had seven points, five rebounds and five blocked shots. The Huskies were playing their sixth straight game without 7-foot starter Amida Brimah, who has a broken finger on his right hand and isn't expected back until mid-February.
Memphis hosts Temple on Wednesday.
UConn visits Tulsa on Thursday
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