GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Richard Hamilton's put-back at the buzzer helped No. 2 seed Connecticut narrowly avoid elimination with a dramatic 75-74 victory over No. 11 Washington in an East Regional semifinal last night at Greensboro Coliseum.
Hamilton's basket, a fadeaway jumper in the lane, capped a brilliant second half in which he scored 18 points, including nine of Connecticut's last 11 points.
The Huskies advanced to tomorrow's regional final against North Carolina, a 73-58 winner over Michigan State.
Connecticut goes into the final eight having won 11 in a row and 16 of the last 17. But the Huskies have not won a regional final in two tries.
Connecticut called a timeout with 29 seconds left. Freshman point guard Khalid El-Amin dribbled the ball near midcourt until there were 10 seconds left. He drove toward the basket and passed the ball to center Jake Voskuhl, whose shot bounced off the rim and Hamilton got the rebound and shot, again with the ball coming off the rim.
After it was tipped from the other side, Hamilton grabbed the loose ball and hit a fadeaway jumper over 7-foot Patrick Femerling, the ball falling through the basket as the buzzer sounded. The Connecticut players all fell to the floor in a huge pile as the Huskies advanced to the regional finals for the third time in six round of 16 appearances in the '90s.
Connecticut struggled to a 47-39 halftime lead, getting a big push in the last six minutes from El-Amin. After Washington tied the game at 31-31, El-Amin scored nine of his 16 first-half points, starting with a driving layup to break the tie.
Connecticut, meanwhile, used its bench in an attempt to wear down Todd MacCulloch. Coach Jim Calhoun used three players against Washington's 7-footer -- starter Jake Voskuhl and reserves Souleymane Wane and Antric Klaiber, who collected six fouls among them.
MacCulloch still got 11 points and five rebounds in the first half, and Washington scored 20 points in the paint.
Held to four points in the first half, Hamilton scored nine of Connecticut's first 12 points in the second half when Washington was making a run.
A three-point shot by Deon Luton brought Washington within four at 48-44, but Hamilton answered by flashing through the lane with a jumper.
Three minutes later, after Luton scored a fast-break layup to cut the deficit to three at 56-53 -- and after a 20-second Connecticut timeout -- Hamilton launched a three-pointer to make it 59-53.
Washington refused to fold, though. A dunk by Luton off a two-on-one fast break triggered an 8-0 run. When 7-0 Pat Femerling pump-faked twice, then fired a jumper in the lane, Washington's deficit was down to one, at 64-63, with 7: 28 to play.
One more time, though, Hamilton came up with a clutch three-pointer. Then Voskuhl blocked a layup attempt by Washington's Jan Wooten and, at the other end, converted two free throws to make it 69-63.
Connecticut went cold on offense after that. After Hamilton missed a jumper with a 69-67 lead, Washington's Donald Watts attempted a three-pointer for the lead -- but missed.
A traveling violation on Hamilton gave Washington another chance. But Femerling hit just one of two free throws with 2: 51 to play and Washington still trailed, 69-68.
Washington had another chance to take the lead at the 1: 29 mark, but MacCulloch hit one of two free throws to leave it tied at 71.
Pub Date: 3/20/98