Huskies drop PC in overtime, 63-59
Saturday, March 09, 2013
In the sport of golf - it's known as "sandbagging."
You know, not being entirely "truthful?" Maybe not forthcoming with all of the facts? Connecticut did nothing wrong, however. Quite the contrary.
With junior all-league guard Shabazz Napier having missed a loss on the road to South Florida this week thanks to a bad foot, combined with season-ending injuries to versatile players Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander and Omar Calhoun, you'd have thought UConn was done before their season-ending game at Gampel Pavilion against Providence ever got started.
You'd have thought wrong, too. Sometimes in sports, adversity brings out the best in a team - and wounded as they might have been, the Huskies, behind Napier's inspiring 16 points and 23 more from his backcourt partner Ryan Boatwright, beat the Friars in overtime 63-59 in Storrs, CT. It's the 2nd overtime win for UConn over Providence this year, having beaten PC 82-79 in OT at the Dunk on January 31st...and also their 5th extra-period win for the year.
The loss ends UConn's season at 20-10, 10-8 in Big East play in Kevin Ollie's first season as head coach. The Huskies are not eligible for the post-season Big East Tournament or the NCAA's due to the program's failure to maintain NCAA-mandated academic standards. The Friars now sit at 17-13 on the season, and finish 9-9 in the Big East. They'll wonder how this opportunity, perhaps, passed them by.
Down by as much as 10 in the first half, the Friars began to chip away at the UConn advantage and pulled within 29-26 after a Bryce Cotton jumper with 1:29 remaining. Cotton's score capped a 7-0 run, but the Huskies scored the final three points of the half after DeAndre Daniels (19 points) flushed home a dunk followed by a Boatright free-throw. UConn led 32-26 at the break.
Providence opened up the second half with a 17-7 run and grabbed their first lead of the game with 16:52 to play following a Kris Dunn (11 points) drive to the hoop. With the Friars holding a 47-46 lead and 8:22 remaining, neither team managed to lead by more than three the rest of the way. Four ties and four lead changes occurred over that time, with PC holding onto the final lead in regulation at 55-53 and just 1:03 left.
Boatright hit two free throws with :32 seconds remaining to tie the score at 55, setting Providence up for a final shot to win it. Cotton passed up what looked to be an open shot and found LaDontae Henton on the baseline, where his jumper was blocked by Daniels with :03 left. Ultimately, the game moved into overtime.
In the extra period, the Huskies quickly seized momentum, and control of the game. Napier hit a jump shot to grab the lead half a minute in, and attacking the rim rather than settling for the outside shot, Boatright forced a foul and hit two free throws for a 59-55 lead. The Friars couldn't get on the board in the OT until Josh Fortune scored on a jumper with just 1:32 left to pull PC back within two at 59-57. In between, there were two misses by Vincent Council, two turnovers and a missed three-point try by Cotton.
UConn, playing in its final Big East Conference game, never gave up the lead. PC tied the score at 59 after two free throws from Henton, but a huge three-point play by Boatright with :19 seconds remaining sealed the deal. Fitting, perhaps, that Napier scored the final point of the game for the 63-59 final. He was the engine that made the Huskes go Saturday, ending their season on a positive note...and the Friars were left holding the (sand) bag.
With the loss snapping a three-game winning streak, PC finished as the #8 seed for next week's tournament at Madison Square Garden, and they will face 9th seeded Cincinnati Wednesday at 12 noon (11:45 am pre-game on 103.7 FM). The Bearcats clinched the 9-spot after beating USF 61-53 in overtime, also putting them at 9-9 in league play (21-10 overall). PC gets the higher seed by virtue of their head-to-head win over the Bearcats 54-50 on February 6th at the Dunkin Donuts Center...Bryce Cotton ends up as the Big East scoring champion, the fifth Friar to accomplish the feat (Marshon Brooks, Ryan Gomes, Herbert Hill and Eric Murdock also won scoring titles), even though he was held to just nine points of 1-of-8 shooting from outside the arc. Credit the play of graduate student guard R.J. Evans for much of the work on Cotton...Kadeem Batts found himself double-and-triple teamed much of the day in the paint, but still led the Friars with 14 points and 12 rebounds...his 2nd straight double-double, 5th of the season and 8th of his career...Henton finished with nine points and 11 boards, Kris Dunn 11 points (before fouling out in OT) and Josh Fortune hit 10 points off of the bench...Council was held to just six points, five assists and five turnovers by the Husky defense, which held the Friars to just 35% shooting from the floor, and just 24% from three. Outrebounded by a Big East record-tying 31 boards in January's OT win in Providence, UConn outrebounded PC Saturday 39-38, and limited the Friars (#1 in the league in offensive rebounds) to 11 offensive boards with just four second chance points...with all of the conference realignment taking place, the game marked UConn's final game in the Big East, as the league moves on with the "Catholic 7" and a few additions for next year as a "new Big East." The Huskies, a charter member of the Big East in 1979, will remain behind with other former Big East football schools in a "yet to be named" conference...