- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - UConn broke out of a season-long 3-point shooting slump against Columbia to head into the holidays with a winning record.

Rodney Purvis tied a career-high with 21 points and the defending national champions beat Columbia 80-65 on Monday.

Ryan Boatright added 20 points and eight assists. The two guards combined to go 6 of 8 from 3-point range for UConn (5-4). The Huskies came in shooting just 29 percent from behind the arc, but made nine of 16 against the Lions.

“I keep telling you guys, they are getting better,” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. “It’s about time they really showed it by shooting it and playing defense at the same time.”

Maodo Lo had 24 points to lead Columbia (6-4), which stayed with the Huskies into the second half.

Columbia scored the first five points after intermission to go up 41-39, but that was the last lead it enjoyed.

Boatright scored the next four points and UConn pulled away late, hitting its final eight shots over the game’s last 9 minutes.

Purvis scored five consecutive points to stretch a one-point UConn lead to 58-52. He gave the Huskies their first double-digit lead with a 3-pointer that made it 67-56.

UConn held Columbia to 33 percent shooting in the second half.

“I thought it was a good basketball game for 32 minutes or so,” said Columbia head coach Kyle Smith.

Purvis, a transfer from North Carolina State who came in averaging just 7.3 points, hit seven of his eight shots from the field.

“I have to do that,” Purvis said. “There’s no more, ‘Where is this guy?’ I have to do that in order for this team to be successful.”

Amida Brimah had 14 points and three blocked shots for UConn. Daniel Hamilton added 11 points including a couple of key 3-pointers in the second half.

UConn shot 57 percent for the game and the Huskies hit their last eight shots from the floor.

They also got off to a quick start, hitting their first four shots and scoring the game’s first nine points, including three baskets by Boatright.

But Columbia was able to get inside on the Huskies and quickly got back into the game, outscoring the Huskies 20-14 in the paint in the first half.

A backdoor layup by Lo gave Columbia its first lead at 17-15.

Both teams took 28 shots from the floor in the first half and made 16 of them.

“It feels good to see my teammates stepping up and make shots,” said Boatright. “I’ve been knowing they can do that. They can do that every game.”

Rodney Purvis hit all four of his shots before intermission, including two 3-pointers. He had 11 points in the half and Boatright had 14, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer that sent the Huskies into halftime with a 39-36 lead.

Lo, a junior from Berlin, Germany, has now scored at least 20 points in five of Columbia’s last six games.

TIP INS:

Columbia: The Lions have now played both participants in last year’s national championship game. Columbia led Kentucky 11-0 and stayed ahead into the second half before falling 56-46 on Dec. 10.

UConn: The Huskies are 1-1 against the Ivy League this season, losing to Yale 45-44 on Dec. 5. That broke a streak of 22 straight wins against Ivy League opponents that dated back to 1986

KEEPING IT CLOSE: Columbia led by as many as six points in the first half and the game was tied 11 times, with six lead changes before the Huskies took control.

UP NEXT:

UConn plays in-state rival Central Connecticut on Dec. 28 in Hartford.

Columbia returns home to face Colgate on Dec. 28.

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