No. 10 Arizona Falls In OT To No. 25 Connecticut, 100-98
Jan. 26, 2002
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. - Connecticut finally made the national rankings lastweek, barely, at No. 25.
Saturday's nationally televised 100-98 overtime victory at No. 10 Arizonashould earn the Huskies a little more attention.
'It's clearly the biggest statement we've made as a team this year, and itwas a great basketball game,' Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. 'We had todraw everything out within ourselves to win.'
Connecticut freshmen Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon shared the spotlight in asentertaining a game as the college sport can offer.
Okafor fell a blocked shot shy of a triple-double with 19 points and 15rebounds. Gordon matched his career-high with 23 points and had a career-bestnine assists as the Huskies (13-4) won their sixth straight.
'This was a classic game,' said Connecticut's Taliek Brown, who scoredfour of his 21 points in overtime. 'They would hit 3s, then we would score,and then we would play good defense, and it was just back and forth the wholegame.'
As terrific as the victory was, it was the second biggest development of theday for Calhoun, whose third granddaughter, Avery Mary, was born at 1:05 a.m.,EST, in Hartford.
Calhoun was nearly knocked to the floor by his ecstatic players when thegame ended.
'Ben, he jumped on me,' Calhoun said. 'It's a good thing I've beenworking out a little. It would be very disappointing to have Avery see hergrandfather on the floor at the end of game and be knocked down by one his ownplayers.'
Okafor officially has 63 blocks in 17 games. In reality, he has about 16more, Calhoun said, and should have had a triple-double on Saturday.
'He had 12 blocks,' Calhoun said. 'I'm not sure why everybody missesthem. I know if you're playing against him, you don't miss them.'
Jason Gardner scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half but wasscoreless in the overtime for the Wildcats (13-6), who lost for the second timethis week and now plays four consecutive Pac-10 road games against the league'sCalifornia schools.
'The difference in the game was Okafor,' Arizona coach Lute Olson said.'Every time we seemed to have an opportunity to get to the bucket, he wasthere. He changed the total complexion of the game. He was the most effectiveplayer on the court.'
Will Bynum missed a wide-open 3-pointer from the baseline for Arizona withtwo seconds to play in the overtime.
'I thought it was going in,' he said. 'I was in rhythm. It's a tough lossfor the team. It's especially tough for me. I usually make those kinds ofshots.'
Salim Stoudamire, who scored 20 points, made consecutive 3-pointers to startthe overtime and give Arizona a 97-91 lead, but Connecticut outscored theWildcats 9-1 the rest of the way.
'Today was all about poise and reason,' Okafor said. 'You come out hereand play in this hostile environment and you have to be ready. We keptfighting. We didn't come all these miles just for the nice weather, we camehere to win.'
Gordon started the decisive surge with a 3-pointer, then Caron Butlerstripped the ball from Luke Walton and hit Brown for a layup to cut it to 97-96with 2:30 remaining.
Tony Robertson, one of six UConn players in double figures with 14 points,blocked Bynum's layup and Brown scored on a drive to put the Huskies ahead forgood, 98-97 with a minute to go.
Gardner missed a 3, then Johnnie Selvie scored inside to give Connecticut a100-97 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
Gardner was fouled by Brown just before taking a 3-point shot with 10seconds left. He missed the first of the two free throws but made the second.Butler, inbounding the ball because Brown had fouled out, threw away theinbounds pass to give Arizona its final shot.
Butler was just 6-for-19 from the field and had 12 points.
Walton scored 18 points but seven turnovers. Channing Frye added 17 for theWildcats, who are 0-3 against Connecticut all-time.
Stoudamire's school-record string of 39 consecutive free throws ended with amiss with 15:33 to go. Coach Lute Olson had put Stoudamire into the game toshoot two free throws in place of the injured Isaiah Fox. Arizona didn't getthe second free throw, either, because of a lane violation.
Gardner's NBA-length 3-pointer gave Arizona a 91-89 lead with 41 secondsleft in regulation, but Butler's inside basket with 19 seconds to play tied it.
Gardner's driving layup was blocked by Okafor, then Walton threw theinbounds pass away and Connecticut couldn't get a shot off before theregulation ended.