UConn storms back, reins in Wash. in OT

Connecticut 98 Washington 92, OT

March 25, 2006|By PAUL MCMULLEN | PAUL MCMULLEN,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- Playing on a Big East floor and in the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 for the fifth time in six seasons, Connecticut was in the unaccustomed position of having to fight for its basketball life last night at Verizon Center.

Down by six with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, UConn needed a long three-pointer by Rashad Anderson with 1.9 seconds remaining to force overtime against Washington. Playing behind most of the night, it never trailed in overtime, but it needed the steady hand of guard Marcus Williams to salvage a 98-92 victory.

Williams scored 26 points and made up for a Connecticut turnover by intercepting a pass with 11.3 seconds remaining in overtime. He clinched the win with a pair of free throws, as a gallant Washington team was outscored 34-18 at the free-throw line.

"We came close," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "This will be something they'll think about the rest of their lives."

Connecticut (30-3) maintained its drive for a third NCAA championship in eight years. It will meet George Mason in tomorrow's Washington Regional final. The winner moves on to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

Anderson came off the Connecticut bench to score 19 points on five three-pointers, and all five starters scored in double figures. South Carroll alum Josh Boone had 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Washington got brilliant play from a pair of seniors, as Jamaal Williams had a game-high 27 points and seven rebounds, and Brandon Roy had 20 points despite foul trouble.

Roy was one of five Washington players who fouled out, as Connecticut took the ball to the basket when it wasn't being saved outside the perimeter by Anderson.

Jim Calhoun can become the third active coach, after Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski, to win three NCAA titles. One of his most talented teams shared the regular-season title in the Big East, looked unimpressive in first- and second-round victories in Philadelphia, but somehow maintained order in its region by avoiding the upset bug that eliminated Duke.

"Yeah I was frustrated," Calhoun said of Connecticut's season-high 26 turnovers. "But we stayed with it and didn't stop playing. No team has disrupted our half-court sets like that. No one has done quite what they did to us."

Washington (26-7), the fifth seed, was experiencing the Eastern time zone for the first time in more than two years and trying to advance to a round it last reached in 1953.

Connecticut forced overtime on a 30-footer from the right wing with 1.9 seconds left by Anderson. Ryan Appleby had a decent look at the buzzer, but his potential game-winner bounced out.

In regulation, Anderson hit a three with 34.3 seconds left and Williams converted a conventional three-point play with 11.0 seconds left. Roy made two free throws with 7.9 seconds left, setting up the Anderson three that came around 12:30 a.m. this morning.

After trailing for most of the last 30 minutes of regulation, Connecticut opened the overtime with a drive by Williams and made eight free throws without a miss. A three by Appleby pulled Washington to within 94-92 with 16.3 seconds left, before Williams made that steal.

Washington had an 11-point lead early in the second half and was ahead 53-45 when Roy got into a costly skirmish with Gay. Roy fouled the sophomore from Archbishop Spalding. When the two were slow to separate, both were given technical fouls, and Roy spent the next seven minutes on the bench with foul trouble.

Minus Roy, his teammates hung tough. Connecticut went ahead for the first time in 20 minutes, at 61-60, on a Hilton Armstrong dunk with 9:53 left. Washington spread the floor and isolated Williams, who's not a standard reserve. He scored on three power moves over a three-minute span, the last for a 73-70 lead with 4:07 remaining.

Gay, who was limited to a single free throw in the first half, came alive in the second and drew Connecticut within one on a pull-up jumper with 4:07 remaining, but his side got nothing out of its next three possessions and Roy's strong left-handed drive made it 75-72 with 3:13 left.

Since the insertion of 6-8 senior Mike Jensen into the starting lineup, Washington had won 10 of 11. Its regular season included a sweep of UCLA for the first time since 1987, and wins over NCAA teams California, Gonzaga, Illinois and Utah State. Last night, Jensen fouled out just before the end of regulation with three points.

It was the first meeting between the two since 1998, when Richard Hamilton's put-back at the buzzer gave UConn a one-point win in the Sweet 16.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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