STORRS, Conn. -- Jerome Dyson just couldn't seem to get himself going -- until Connecticut really needed him.
The Huskies' senior guard scored 15 of his 23 points in the final 7:11 Tuesday night to help No. 12 UConn to defeat Hofstra 76-67 in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
The win sends the Huskies into the NIT semifinals on Nov. 25 at Madison Square Garden, where they will face LSU.
"I was trying to do anything to get myself going," said Dyson, who hit 10 of 11 free throws during the 7:11 span. "We needed something, so I just tried to get to the bucket every time. We were already in the bonus, so it kind of made it easy for me."
It was anything but easy for UConn (3-0), which trailed 54-45 with 9:09 remaining after a run of Hofstra 3-pointers.
|NIT Season Tip-Off link|
"You look at the scoreboard and you really don't know what to think," he said. "Our goal was to get to New York and it wasn't looking like that's where we were going. We had to battle back. It was good for us to get that under our belts."
Although Hofstra struggled with its shooting throughout (32.9 percent), the Pride (1-2) got hot from long range at the right time.
Charles Jenkins, Cornelius Vines, and Halil Kanacevic combined to hit five 3-pointers to cap a 21-5 run and give Hofstra a nine-point advantage.
UConn's Stanley Robinson stopped the run with a 3-pointer, however, and the Huskies then battled back behind Dyson to take a 59-58 lead with 5:09 left.
The teams then exchanged the lead four times before Dyson and Robinson scored back-to-back baskets to give the Huskies a 65-62 lead with 3:36 left.
From that point on, UConn point guard Kemba Walker knew where to send the ball.
Every play we had, whatever it was, I tried to get it to Jerome," Walker said. "They were switching a lot, but there was a time he had the shortest guy on the court on him and got a basket and another time, he had the tallest guy on the court on him and got a basket. He just took over the game."
Walker had 16 points, Robinson added 15, and Gavin Edwards scored 10. For Hofstra, Jenkins scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, while Vines added 18.
The Pride's two losses have been to top-ranked Kansas and No. 12 UConn.
"We're not about moral victories," Hofstra coach Tom Pecora said. "We're not about coming to places and playing people tough. This is a game we wanted to win, and we wanted to play in Madison Square Garden next week. But UConn is a very, very good team."
Even though the Huskies barely avoided an embarrassing loss at home, UConn coach Jim Calhoun thinks it might help his team find an identity, following last season's Final Four run.
"This was the first time this particular group had a real big-time gut check," Calhoun said. "I'm proud of the way we fought back. We did not want to be in Charlotte or some place next week playing two teams [in the tourney consolation rounds]. We wanted to be in Madison Square Garden. That was our goal and I thought we fought like hell to get there."
Still, for the second time in three games, UConn failed to outrebound its opponent, uncharacteristic of Calhoun's teams.
"Technically, it wasn't a great basketball game," Calhoun said. "We're not going to break this one out as a teaching tool. But collectively, we showed some toughness and we're going to need that."
|Jerome Dyson, attempting a shot here, finishes with 23 points for the Huskies. (AP)|
|Connecticut #12 (3-0) «||30||46||76|
|HOF:Charles Jenkins 25 Pts
HOF:Nathaniel Lester 11 Reb
HOF:Charles Jenkins 8 Ast
|CT:Jerome Dyson 23 Pts
CT:Alex Oriakhi 14 Reb
CT:Jerome Dyson 4 Ast
|PLAYERS OF THE GAME|
|C. Jenkins, G||40||9-22||6-8||4||8||4||25|
|N. Lester, G||40||2-12||4-4||11||0||2||8|
|C. Vines, G||36||6-16||0-0||4||1||5||18|
|G. Washington, F||19||1-3||0-0||4||0||4||2|
|M. Szabo, F||14||1-1||0-0||3||0||4||2|
|C. Williams, G||28||2-6||0-0||3||3||5||4|
|H. Kanacevic, F||23||3-13||0-0||10||1||4||8|
|P. Bilbo, F||Did Not Play|
|M. Grogan, G||Did Not Play|
|D. Imes, F||Did Not Play|
|Y. Jules, G||Did Not Play|
|B. Kelleher, G||Did Not Play|
|M. Moore, G||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|S. Robinson, F||39||6-12||2-5||4||1||1||15|
|J. Dyson, G||36||4-11||14-15||3||4||4||23|
|K. Walker, G||36||5-12||6-6||7||4||0||16|
|A. Oriakhi, F-C||33||3-9||2-4||14||1||2||8|
|G. Edwards, F-C||27||3-5||4-4||3||0||4||10|
|J. Coombs-McDaniel, F||17||0-3||2-2||3||2||1||2|
|D. Beverly, G||9||1-1||0-0||1||0||0||2|
|D. Smith, G||2||0-0||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|C. Okwandu, C||1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|K. Bailey, G||Did Not Play|
|A. Hornat, F||Did Not Play|
|A. Majok, F||Did Not Play|
|J. Mandeldove, C||Did Not Play|
|J. Trice, G||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|