Gordon, Brown offer more than outside shot

With early surge, defense, Huskies guards perfect complement to Okafor

April 06, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

SAN ANTONIO - It was a given before tip-off last night that the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets had a major task on their hands in trying to contain a large, mobile Connecticut frontline led by junior first-team All-America center Emeka Okafor.

While rolling to their second NCAA championship with an 82-73 victory over Georgia Tech at the Alamodome, the Huskies did their predictable damage down low.

But Connecticut also struck at the heart of the Yellow Jackets with deadly effectiveness. With junior shooting guard Ben Gordon and senior point guard Taliek Brown making the statement, the Huskies destroyed Georgia Tech's backcourt.

Gordon and Brown did what they have done so well all year - share the ball, shoot the ball and hound their opponents on defense.

Gordon, one of the best three-point marksmen in school history, scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half, when the Huskies opened up a 41-26 lead and essentially silenced any thoughts of a Yellow Jackets upset.

Brown, the school's all-time assists leader who set the single-season record in that category this year, added nine points, six rebounds and four assists in 37 controlled minutes.

And the duo took the fight to Georgia Tech at the other end of the court. Tech sophomore point guard Jarrett Jack, who got the Yellow Jackets to their second Final Four by winning the Most Outstanding Player Award in the St. Louis Regional, could barely breath at times in the face of Brown's withering coverage.

Senior shooting guard Marvin Lewis started the evening under Gordon's thumb, shook loose before missing some wide-open shots early and never warmed up.

Jack and Lewis combined to score 13 points on 4-for-17 shooting, including 0-for-6 from three-point range. Jack also committed five turnovers.

"They came out hard and we dug ourselves a big hole in the first half," Jack said. "They pretty much outplayed us in every phase of the game."

If not for junior backup guard Will Bynum, who led Tech with 17 points and gave the Yellow Jackets brief hope for a miraculous comeback by making a pair of threes in the final 43 seconds, the entire Tech backcourt would have been a wash. Guard/forward B.J. Elder missed 11 of 15 shots and finished with 14 points.

The Huskies fed the post like they always do, as Okafor was never out of the offensive flow. But Gordon and Brown did not wait long to put a telling stamp on the contest.

Just over six minutes into the game, after Georgia Tech had taken a 12-11 lead on a transition layup by Clarence Moore, the Huskies responded with a 17-4 run that opened a gap the Yellow Jackets would never close.

Gordon and Brown combined to score 13 points during the surge. Gordon, who trails only Ray Allen in career three-pointers and three-point percentage at UConn, hit back-to-back threes from the right wing and converted three free throws after being fouled beyond the arc.

Brown, who left with 719 career assists, fed Gordon on one of the threes and burned Tech with a driving layup and a baseline jumper.

Suddenly, the Huskies had a 28-16 lead with 8:57 left in the first half. From there, Connecticut pretty much did whatever it pleased, which included Brown slicing through Tech's defense to set up his teammates and Gordon doing the same. Brown's jump shot cooled off in the second half, although Gordon helped the Huskies build their lead to as many as 25 points with his foul shooting. He made eight of nine attempts.

"I just kept telling myself that I won't be denied and I would not let my team lose, no matter what," said Gordon, UConn's leading scorer this year. "Every one of our guys brought their best game and were ready to play. This is the best feeling in the world."

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