It was the latest biggest game in UConn’s season. A game that certainly had the postseason feel. This game had it all. Clutch shots, great defense and raucous sold out Gampel Pavilion crowd on the nationally televised matchup. UConn (19-8, 9-6) battled back from twelve down in the second half and a huge three with two ticks on the clock by freshman Omar Calhoun sent the game into overtime. A punchers first overtime ended in a draw sending the game to a second overtime. In the second extra five minute frame it was the Hoyas who would go down by seven only to claw back and take the lead on an Otto Porter driving layup with nine seconds left. A Ryan Boatright prayer skipped off the back rim and Georgetown (22-4, 12-3) knocked off the Huskies 79-78 in Storrs in what will undoubtedly go down as a Big East epic.
A win by the Huskies would have kept UConn in the hunt for the Big East regular season crown. With a postseason ban in place, the Huskies goal from the outset of the season has been the regular season title. Following the crushing double overtime defeat the Huskies focus turns to getting first year head coach Kevin Ollie a 20 win season and finishing above .500 in the conference with three games to play.
Georgetown head coach John Thompson lll summed up the game, “That was a hell of a basketball game. Both teams played at a really high level.”
First half grind
After a first that was anything but an offensive gem, UConn took a 22-19 lead into the locker room. The big guns from both sides were quiet with Porter (22 pts, 5 rbs, 4 asst) only notching a point before the break and Shabazz Napier (16 pts, 5 rbs, 6 asst) scoreless through the first twenty minutes. The Hoyas were held without a basket for over an eleven minute stretch at one point in the half.
Ollie echoed Thompson’s sentiments, “It was a great effort by both teams. Georgetown stayed with what they were running. The first half was not good basketball offensively but I think we gave everybody in the building a great game in two overtimes. Players stepped up on both teams.”
Second half shootout
Georgetown opened the second half with a 22-8 run that gave them a 41-20 lead with just over thirteen minutes left in the game. It looked the seventh ranked (AP) Hoyas had finally taken control of the contest. The teams exchanged a barrage of threes over the next six minutes but the Huskies still trailed by nine with just over eight to go.
Georgetown pushed the margin to twelve with over four left and it looked like UConn’s dream of a Big East crown would end in regulation.
Instead a 9-0 run spurred by a Boatright (11 pts, 8 asst) runner, a Napier bucket and three and a pair of DeAndre Daniels (25 pts, 10 rbs) free throws cut the lead to three with 2:30 left. A D’Vaun Smith-Rivera deuce pushed the lead back out to five with just over a minute to go. A Calhoun (13 pts, 7 rbs) put back cut the lead to three with ten seconds on the clock. Jabril Trawick had a chance to ice it for the Hoyas but missed the front end of the one and one. Napier took the miss, hit Boatright on the outlet who in turn found Calhoun on the left wing for the huge game tying three with 2.2 on the clock. Neils Giffey stole the inbounds but his potential game winner was off the mark sending the teams to overtime.
Let’s play two
The lead changed hands three times in the first extra session after Georgetown took the early lead on a Markel Starks (19 pts) old-fashioned three-point play. After a Daniels lay-in knotted the score at 69 both teams went scoreless for the final 2:29.
In the second overtime, Daniels and Napier sandwiched a pair of threes around a Nate Lubick (9 pts, 7 rbs, 6 asst) layup giving UConn the 75-71 lead. Giffey hit three of four free throws that pushed the lead to seven with 2:03 to play and it looked like UConn’s title quest would continue. Daniels double-double was the first for a UConn player this season.
But Georgetown, riding a nine game win streak was not done. A Porter three followed by a Smith-Rivera three cut the lead to one with under a minute to play. Napier, who had been battling a foot injury for much of the second half and the overtimes, lost the ball on a drive with the rock eventually ending up in Porter’s hands. The junior forward and Georgetown’s leading scorer put the ball on the floor driving from the wing finishing with a layup giving the Hoyas the lead with 9.5 showing. A desperation three by Boatright missed the mark and for all intents and purposes the Big East magic carpet ride for UConn came to a gut wrenching end.
Ollie was gracious and understandably disappointed in defeat, “I’m very proud of my guys. They fought. I believe (UConn) was down twelve or eleven. Just kept battling. Kept fighting. Showed character. Showed perseverance. Showed heart. That’s what our team is all about. You can write what you want to. But I hope you all write that we got heart. I would go to battle with them any day.”