STORRS, Conn. (AP)Josh Carlton isn’t the most demonstrative of players.
So after UConn’s 6-foot-8 post made a particularly strong move to the basket Wednesday night, it was his coach who jumped off the bench and flexed in front of the team.
Carlton scored 19 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, both season highs to lead UConn over Iona 80-62. He also blocked four shots and drew six fouls going hard to the rim.
”I just want him to believe in himself; I want him to see me doing that (flexing) in his direction and let him see that I believe in him and that I think he’s a beast,” coach Dan Hurley said.
Christian Vital added 16 points and Tyler Polley scored 14 for the Huskies (6-2), who have won three straight and five of their last six.
Alterique Gilbert had a double-double with 12 points and 10 assists. That trio of guards combined to hit eight of their 15 attempts from 3-point range.
”It’s just when everybody is doing what they do well is when we fire on all cylinders – Ty hitting 3s; CV hitting 3s; Alterique getting into the paint and dishing it out to shooters; Akok blocking shots,” Carlton said.
E.J. Crawford scored 17 points and Tajuan Agee had 14 for Iona (2-3). All but four of their points came in the first half.
”I thought in the second half we didn’t quite move the ball like we needed to get open shots,” acting coach Tra Arnold said.
UConn led by just one point at halftime, but scored the first 11 points of the second half. Polley’s 3-pointer from the left wing put the Huskies up 47-35 and forced Arnold to call a timeout.
Akok Akok’s put-back capped the UConn run at 22-4. That gave the Huskies a 58-39 lead and control of the game.
Iona went on a 13-1 run of its own and cut what had been a 22-point deficit to 10 before UConn stretched it back out.
”As time goes by in your program, as you recruit players in and as players who were already in the program start to believe in your vision then you are just a lot more together and you can withstand bad stretches and respond,” Hurley said.
The Huskies opened strong. Vital scored on UConn’s first possession and had seven points as the Huskies jumped out to an 11-2 lead.
Connecticut used an unusual 5-point play to go up 20-11. Gilbert drew a foul while sinking a long 3-pointer from the right wing. He missed the free throw, but Isaiah Whaley was there to tip it into the basket.
The Huskies led 22-11, before Agee led the Gaels on an 12-0 run to take their first lead on a three-point play by Crawford.
UConn led 36-35 at the break.
Iona: Iona had not played a game since November 23 and won’t play again until December 17. The Gaels remain without head coach Tim Cluess, who also has been dealing with an undisclosed medical condition.
”He’s good spirited right now; I think he’ll be back soon,” Arnold said.
UConn: The Huskies were back to a 10-man rotation on Wednesday with the return of swingman Sid Wilson from a knee injury. Wilson played 81/2 minutes, scoring two points and pulling down three rebounds.
UConn shot 47% from the field and had 18 assists on its 30 made field goals. Iona shot 40.7%, but hit just four of 19 shots from 3-point range.
UConn assistant coach Kenya Hunter returned to the bench for the first time this season after battling an undisclosed health problem.
Iona: The Gaels host Princeton on Dec. 17.
UConn: The Huskies travel to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday to face Indiana in the Jimmy V Classic
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