It was a thrilling Wednesday afternoon at the Big East Championship as Connecticut beat West Virginia in overtime and Georgetown pulled away from Pittsburgh in the second game.
UConn brings back memories of last season’s Big East Championship run
The second round of the Big East Championship began with a thriller, as the UConn Huskies came from behind to take the game to overtime and beat the West Virginia Mountaineers 71-67.
West Virginia appeared to have the game in hand with five minutes remaining and a nine-point lead, at 61-52 on a layup by big man Deniz Kilicli.
Over the next three minutes, UConn’s Shabazz Napier scored nine points to key a 11-2 run to enable UConn to tie the game at 63.
They traded baskets, and the game was tied at 65 in the final minute as UConn had a chance to win it. The Huskies had the ball with 27 seconds remaining, but Napier took too long dribbling near halfcourt and forced up a three-pointer that was off-target, so the game went into overtime.
The overtime session was a defensive affair, with the game tied at 67 with 1:05 left when Jeremy Lamb nailed a three-pointer to give UConn the lead at 70-67.
UConn freshman guard Ryan Boatright got to the line twice, but made only one out of four free throws to put the Huskies ahead by four with 20 seconds left. Boatright scored 10 points off the bench.
This game was a battle of stars, as UConn’s Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier dueled with West Virginia’s Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant.
Napier had a tough first half, scoring only four points, but scored an impressive 22 points in the second half and overtime. He finished with 26 in the game on 7-for-18 shooting, with four 3-pointers and eight free throws made. Lamb had 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting and three 3-pointers.
UConn Head Coach Jim Calhoun said of Lamb and Napier, “I thought Shabazz was close to magnificent. I thought Jeremy stepped up like the big time player that he is.”
For West Virginia, Jones had 26 points on 10-for-21 shooting, and only 1-for-8 from three-point range. Bryant had 20 points on 4-for-14 shooting and made 10 free throws.
Calhoun said of his team, “I couldn’t be prouder of our kids. I think for a team that obviously has had its ups, downs, no coach, no Boatright, all the various things that have happened to us, those are things that happen and can happen to other teams. But I can’t judge that. I can only judge mine, my family, my guys, and my guys have come back, won three in a row, and I truly believe that a coach couldn’t be prouder.”
Napier said of Calhoun at the end of the game, “We dug down deep. We were down by nine with three minutes and 40 seconds left. We dug down deep. At the end of the day Coach told us one thing, we’ve got to lock up the game. We have everything to lose. Why not go out there and give it your all?”
Connecticut will move on to face Syracuse, the top seed in the Big East Championship, on Thursday at noon in the quarterfinals.
Three of the last four times that UConn has met Syracuse have gone to overtime, including last year and the famous six-overtime game in the 2009 quarterfinals.
Connecticut won the Big East Championship last season, winning five games in five days. They are just three wins away from duplicating the feat, and a win like this will only get people thinking they can do it.
Georgetown, led by Sims and Porter, dominates Pitt
The Georgetown Hoyas had an impressive win in their second round game on Wednesday afternoon, beating the Pitt Panthers 64-52.
Henry Sims and Otto Porter had big games for Georgetown, each scoring 20 points. Sims, Georgetown’s center, shot 7-of-10 from the field, while Porter shot a nearly identical 7-for-11.
Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said of Sims, “I thought he was very good today in terms of his effectiveness on the block, his effectiveness as a passer and his decision making out there. We’re pretty good when we get that effort out of him, smart effort, when he produces like he did today.”
The turning point in this one came with 2:54 left in the first half and Pitt leading 23-21. Greg Whittington got a layup, and was fouled to make it a three-point play to put Georgetown ahead 24-23. Whittington had 11 points off the bench for the Hoyas.
This basket began a 10-0 run for Georgetown to close the first half with a 31-23 lead which they never looked back from.
The key also for Georgetown was they kept Pitt’s star guard Ashton Gibbs in check, holding him to 14 points on just 4-for-12 shooting. Gibbs was the only Pitt player to score in double figures, with their next- highest scorers being Lamar Patterson and Tray Woodall scoring nine each.
Georgetown will take on #4 seed Cincinnati on Thursday afternoon at 2:30 in the quarterfinals.