ARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Charles Dickens and Rod Serling had nothing to do with it, but Connecticut acted as if each had a hand in scripting the game.
The ninth-ranked Huskies made seven straight 3-pointers in the second half Tuesday night to rally from a 25-point deficit and beat Massachusetts 59-48, matching its biggest comeback under coach Jim Calhoun.
``It was a tale of two games,'' Calhoun said. ``In the first half we were comatose.''
Center Emeka Okafor, held to four points, 15 below his average, had a different take.
``We were in the `Twilight Zone,' '' he said. ``I don't know what we were doing, but we weren't playing Connecticut basketball.''
UConn (6-0) wasn't running much offense in the first half. Stymied by the Minutemen's triangle-and-one defense, a combination zone and man, the Huskies managed just nine points on 4-for-26 shooting (15 percent) and trailed 30-9 at the break.
``We couldn't get any break going and then (UMass) would wind the clock down to 10 seconds,'' Calhoun said. ``We became deflated.''
UMass (1-5) took advantage of the absence of UConn's leading rebounder, Okafor, who was in foul trouble early in the game, and outscored the Huskies 20-4 in the paint in the first half.
``You couldn't have told me before that game in a million years that was going to happen,'' UMass coach Steve Lappas said. ``It was just one of those halves for them. But like great teams, I know one thing, if we can hold them to nine, they can hold us to nine in a half, too.''
The last time UMass held an opponent to under 10 points in a half was in 1958 against Trinity, which scored eight.
On Tuesday night, Jackie Rogers had 10 of his 12 points in the first half. He opened the game with three quick baskets, staking UMass to a 6-2 lead.
UConn's turnaround in the second half was a quick one. After falling behind 34-9 inside the first two minutes of the second half, on baskets by Micah Brand and Rogers, the Huskies hit six 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes -- getting two apiece from Gordon and freshmen Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson.
The Huskies also stepped up their press and changed the pace of the game. The faster the game, the quicker the comeback.
``The game was getting to the point where we wanted it to be,'' Calhoun said. ``Everything changed. Our press really saved us tonight and some young freshmen made big plays.''
Anderson, who finished with 16 points, hit his first of three 3-pointers with 14:56 left in the game to cut UMass' lead to 34-16. The Huskies then hit their next five from long range.
``Once I got in the game I felt the rhythm when they passed me the ball and it went it,'' he said. ``I was loving it. It was fun.''
With Okafor back in, the Huskies began to regain their inside game. He had four of his five blocks in the second half. His hook shot with 6:33 left gave the Huskies their first lead at 38-36, and the comeback -- a 29-6 run -- was complete. UConn hit 12 of 22 shots for 55 percent in the second half.
The Minutemen were unable to regain the lead as the Huskies pulled away 21-12 the rest of the way in a spurt that included another 3-pointer from Gordon and 14-of-16 from the line.
Okafor finished with 12 rebounds and four points and Denham Brown added 11.
Anthony Anderson led UMass with 13 points. Brand added 12 points and 13 boards as the Minutemen outrebounded the Huskies,41-31.
UConn leads the series in the rivalry dubbed the ``U-Game,'' 67-38, and has won the last 12 meetings. The Huskies rallied from a 25-point deficit in 1995 to beat Pittsburgh, 85-76 in Pittsburgh.
``We could have easily quit,'' Gordon said. ``Any other team probably wouldn't have come back like us. That just says a lot about our character.''
|Player of the Game
ARTFORD - The UConn players jogged off the court at halftime under a cascade of boos from the crowd.
And it was a home game for the Huskies.
How often does that happen? About as often as UConn scores just nine points in the opening 20 minutes and trails a struggling UMass team by 21 points.
UConn took out its frustration on the Minutemen in the second half, roaring back behind a 22-0 run and pulling away for a stunning 59-48 victory at the Hartford Civic Center.
Guard Ben Gordon led UConn with 18 points, hitting two free throws during the 22-point run, which featured six straight 3-pointers. Rashad Anderson came off the bench to pump in 16 points.
Center Micah Brand had 12 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks for UMass, which led 30-9 at the break, when the crowd turned on its own.
``The way we were playing, we deserved (the boos),'' said UConn sophomore center Emeka Okafor, who finished with 13 rebounds and five blocks. ``The fans kind of helped us get refocused. . . . So we got out in the second half and played our hearts out. And the fans rewarded us by cheering for us, helping us on, and that helped us get this win also.''
UMass coach Steve Lappas said he doesn't believe in moral victories. Too bad. Because the Minutemen are reeling after dropping their fifth game in six tries this season. For a team that has already lost to Central Connecticut and Boston College, this one had to be the most disheartening.
UMass has not won in this series since the ``UGame'' rivalry was revived seven years ago. At halftime, the streak was in jeopardy as UConn hit just 4-of-26 shots and UMass smartly slowed the game to a crawl on offense, further frustrating the Huskies. ``It was a tale of two games, obviously,'' said coach Jim Calhoun, whose ninth-ranked Huskies improved to 6-0. ``The first half we were comatose. We saw a triangle-and-two (defense). . . . Instead of becoming inspired by it, we became deflated by it.
``We became discouraged by the fact we couldn't run.''
Said Okafor: ``We were in the Twilight Zone. I don't know what we were doing, but we weren't playing Connecticut basketball.''
Despite its big lead, UMass knew better than to think it was over.
``Definitely not,'' said Brand. ``We knew they had a lot of scorers who weren't hitting shots in the first half. We knew something like that could happen.''
Added Minutemen guard Marcus Cox: ``I told the team at halftime, `We've got a second half left. They're coming, so we've got to be ready.'
``We were tentative when we should have been aggressive. We just didn't attack (the press) like we were supposed to.''
UMass started the second half fine, upping the lead to 25 points after a jumper by Jackie Rogers less than two minutes in. The margin was still 19 points (35-16) with 14 minutes remaining when Calhoun tried to light a fire under his troops by jawing with referee John Cahill until he drew a technical foul.
``I said to the kids, `I'm working my ass off. I almost got myself thrown out of the game. Are you guys giving it your all?'
``I don't know if helped or not.''
After Brand hit one of the two technical free throws, UConn began raining down 3-pointers. First, Rashad Anderson hit one on UConn's ensuing possession. Then, after a steal by Taliek Brown, Gordon took a Brown pass and buried another trey. Following two missed free throws by Gabe Lee, Gordon canned another trey, and it was an 11-point game, 36-25, with 11:36 left. The crowd was back in it, as was its team.
Denham Brown hit consecutive treys in a 35-second span, and UConn was within a pair at 36-34 with nine minutes remaining.
At the other end, Okafor rejected a dunk attempt by Raheim Lamb, further igniting the crowd.
When Gordon hit two free throws with 7:33 left, it was a tie game. Then, following another block (this time on Rogers), Okafor dropped in a short jumper to give UConn its first lead, 38-36, with 6:31 left.
UMass ended the 22-0 run when Brand put a hook over Okafor to tie the game, but it was clear that UConn's press was tiring the Minutemen.
UConn's Mike Hayes, left alone by the UMass defense, buried two open shots sandwiched around a Cox follow at the other end, and the Huskies regained the lead for good.
After a series of free throws by both teams, a Gordon trey with 2:10 left made it a five-point game, 49-44. UMass was fading, and UConn was gaining steam, hitting its last nine free throws to win going away.
``It's a great comeback,'' Calhoun said. ``The game is not going up to Springfield, to the Hall of Fame, but it's something we can build on.''
Calhoun was not thrilled with the booing his team received from the home crowd at halftime.
``I didn't notice it,'' Calhoun said before he got serious. ``It was a great win and I don't want to do anything to diminish it.'' . . .
UConn's bench outscored its counterpart 20-2, fueled by 16 points from Rashad Anderson. . . .
The nine first-half points UMass surrendered were one more than the school record set against Trinity on Feb. 5, 1958.
ARTFORD - With 6:32 remaining last night, Connecticut center Emeka Okafor scored on a short jumper to put the Huskies ahead of Massachusetts by 2 and cap a 22-0 run. All that UMass had done to stage arguably the biggest upset in college basketball this season had been squandered, namely:
- A 25-point lead with 18:37 to go.
- A defensive effort that held ninth-ranked UConn to 9 first-half points, its lowest total in a half under coach Jim Calhoun.
- A showing that prompted a partisan Hartford Civic Center crowd of 14,962 to turn on its beloved Huskies, loudly booing them as they left the court at halftime.
Normally, this UMass team trailing a top-10 opponent by 2 with 6:32 left would be cause for celebration. But this was a lost opportunity. The damage had been done: The Minutemen kept pace for about three minutes, then UConn outscored them, 15-6, over the last 3:17 to prevail, 59-48.
Sophomore guard Ben Gordon had a game-high 18 points and Rashad Anderson added 16 for UConn, which overcame 15 percent shooting in the first half with 55 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes. The Huskies failed to hit on any of their seven 3-point attempts before halftime, but went 8 for 12 thereafter, with three each by Gordon and Anderson.
''It was a tale of two games, obviously,'' said Calhoun, whose squad improved to 6-0 and won its 12th straight game over the Minutemen despite being outrebounded, 41-31.
''I think in the first half, we were comatose,'' Calhoun added. ''I hope the best thing we did is we learned, hopefully, who we are and that we can win a game almost under any circumstance.''
Anthony Anderson had a team-high 13 points and Micah Brand and Jackie Rogers added 12 apiece for UMass (1-5), which hit just 7 of 17 free throws, shot 22 percent from the floor in the second half, and turned the ball over 17 times. Those were among the primary reasons UMass was outscored, 50-18, in the second half after yielding its fewest points in a half since allowing Trinity 8 in 1958.
''It's very frustrating,'' said Brand. ''To be up, 30-9, [at halftime] and have them come back is disappointing, but it's a learning experience for us.''
UMass scored the first two baskets of the second half, but UConn cut the deficit to 35-16 and with 13:51 to go, Calhoun was called for a technical foul. Brand sank one free throw to put the Minutemen ahead by 20.
Gordon said the team was not inspired by the technical, yet that was when it staged a furious rally, hitting six consecutive 3-pointers - including three straight by Denham Brown - and forcing turnovers with a relentless press to take a 38-36 lead with 6:32 left.
''We got at it in practice, you just feed off the confidence of one another,'' said Brown. ''If you see one guy hit it, then you go for it and hit it and it just causes a chain reaction.''
The crowd went delirious with every 3-pointer, spurring the Huskies' intensity and defensive pressure. Meanwhile, UMass further hurt its cause by missing 3 of 4 free throws during the stretch.
''I don't think we cracked up too much,'' said UMass guard Marcus Cox, a UConn transfer, ''but I think at certain times we were tentative when we should have been aggressive.''
UMass scored consecutive baskets by Brand and Cox to keep pace, but with 2:10 to go, Gordon sank a trey to give the Huskies their biggest lead, 49-44. UMass never got closer than 4.
''When we were down [34-9] at one point, we could have stopped, cried, or gone home, but we stuck with it,'' said Okafor, who scored just 4 points (15 below his average) and spent much of the first half in foul trouble after struggling to guard Rogers, but played better in the second half and finished with 13 rebounds and five blocks.
''There's no such thing as moral victories,'' said UMass coach Steve Lappas, ''but I told the guys on the team that the way I look at it, these six games were our learning period, our exhibition season, and now the season really starts for us on Saturday [against Florida International in Amherst].''
inus its sponsor and national television audience, the UMass-UConn game finally added the emotion of a rivalry. But the outcome remained consistent, as the Huskies used a full court press to erase a 21-point halftime deficit in a 59-48 win.
"Our press really saved us though," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "And some young freshmen stepped up and made some big plays tonight."
Rookies Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown had 20 of their 27 points during UConn's decisive second half run.
"The kid Rashad Anderson was averaging less than two points per game coming into this," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "Mike Hayes (four points) hasn't made a jump shot from the foul line ever and he makes two in a row."
Down 25 under two minutes into the half, Anderson and Brown led a shooting spree that climaxed with Ben Gordon's equalizing free throws with 7:33 remaining in the game.
The two rookies (Anderson and Brown) made five threes on the 27-2 run that brought the game even, while UConn went 8-for-12 as a team from behind the arc in the half.
Two free throws by Micah Brand represented the only points during the collapse, as a second half adjustment on UConn's press threw the Minutemen off their game plan.
"By halftime, it was pretty apparent to me that the press was about that far away from working if we could get the trap at half court someplace. All we had to do was get the second line to show a little more and get more active," Calhoun said. "No question the press turned the game around for us. We changed the pace of the game."
UMass used a very deliberate offense to frustrate UConn and hold it to a season-low nine first half points, while chipping in an opportunistic 30.
"I think in the first half we were comatose," Calhoun said. "We became discouraged by the fact that we couldn't run and we were having to play defense for so long."
The crowd of 14,962 staved from its lashing of former Husky Marcus Cox to let the home team know how it felt after a dismal first half performance.
"It might be ridiculous to the new players," Gordon said. "But I faced it last year against [St. Bonaventure]. You just don't expect, going into the game, to hear something like that."
Senior forwards Micah Brand and Jackie Rogers combined for 18 in the half while Texan shot blocker Emeka Okafor was on the bench with three fouls.
But Okafor's second half return - he played all 20 minutes - held Rogers and Brand to just seven more points while limiting the opportunities of the UMass pressbreak.
The sophomore had only four points after averaging over 19 for the first five games, but still blocked five shots while altering numerous more.
Still, even with the run, UMass found itself down just two with under four minutes remaining.
"When you're down two with 3:12 to go but you've surrendered a big lead, it's a lot different than being down two with 3:12 to go and going back and forth the whole game." Lappas said.
The Minutemen partially regained their shooting touch when six straight points by Marcus Cox brought the score to 46-44 with 2:33 left, but the Huskies were too much down the stretch.
Gordon answered Cox's flurry with his third three of the game, and UConn hit 10-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes to seal the game. Gordon led all scorers with 18 points, including 16 in the second half.
Anthony Anderson found his shooting touch to lead UMass with 13 points after two straight games out of double figures.
ARTFORD, Conn. - From the sound of it, Connecticut had the game won when a Rashad Anderson three-pointer made the score 36-19. At that point, the nearly all-UConn crowd went ballistic, came to its feet and remained a part of the game for the final 13:46.
It was the crowd that seemed to bring the Huskies back from a 34-9 deficit to a 59-48 win over the Massachusetts men's basketball team last night at the Hartford Civic Center.
"The momentum of the game, the crowd, it [all] fed itself," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun after his team scored more points in the second half than UMass did in all 40 minutes of action.
Forced to play a full court press after halftime, the blue wave surrounding the court grew louder and louder as Calhoun's squad forced turnover after turnover and sank trey after trey.
"It wasn't just the shooting. It was the way we changed the pace of the game," said Calhoun, whose team shot 8-for-12 from downtown in the second half. UConn missed all seven of its attempted threes in the first.
After converting just five turnovers into one three-pointer in the first half, the Huskies erased the big Minuteman lead with 18 points off 12 forced turnovers in the second frame.
Following Anderson's trifecta, UConn point guard Taliek Brown stole the ball from freshman guard Mike Lasme and hit backcourt mate Ben Gordon, who drilled a three of his own. Brown found Gordon again two minutes later for another trey, to cut the lead to 36-25.
From that point, the Husky faithful was the sixth man on the floor, causing more UMass turnovers and bad decisions than the UConn players themselves.
Maroon and White point guard Anthony Anderson turned the ball over on the next possession and Brown found freshman forward Denham Brown, who hit another from downtown, cutting the lead to 36-28. The crowd roared its approval. With the Civic Center rocking and rolling and the media straining to hear any announcement from the public announcer, it was impossible to tell that the hometown crowd was losing to a 1-4 team by eight points.
A Jackie Rogers turnover and subsequent Denham Brown trey cut the lead to 36-31, sending the crowd into an even greater frenzy. The UConn pressure caused a 10-second violation on UMass' possession, and Rashad Anderson sunk another one from behind the arc off another steal from Taliek Brown.
Gordon stole a Micah Brand pass and drew a foul from the 6-foot-11 UMass captain on the fast break. Hesunk both shots and tied up the game, but the final 7:34 were moot, as all of the momentum and confidence had completely shifted to the Huskies.
A 15-foot jumper by senior forward Mike Hayes gave the Huskies their first lead of the game and capped off a 22-0 run. UMass committed six of its second half turnovers over the course of UConn's streak - which took up 8:25.
UConn outscored the Minutemen 21-12 the rest of the way and earned a standing ovation from the Civic Center crowd as the buzzer went off.
But it wasn't all happy times for the Husky crowd last night, as the fans, which started the game off quite jovial ended up booing their team as it headed into the locker room at halftime.
Despite the strong program and recent success that could reserve a team some leniency during one bad half, the UConn players understood the ragingly negative reaction they received trotting off the court.
"The way we were playing, we deserved it," said UConn sophomore center Emeka Okafor said after a four-point, 13-rebound, five block performance. "The fans kind of helped get refocused...so we got out in the second half and played our hearts out. And the fans rewarded us by cheering us on, and that helped up get this win also."
"They paid their money to come watch us win," said Taliek Brown, who dished out nine assists in 39 minutes. "But when it comes down to it, we didn't play to satisfy them, we had to satisfy ourselves and our coaching staff."
Not everyone appreciated it, however.
"You just don't expect, going into the game, to hear things like that," Gordon said. "But we came together as a team. And that's all we really have out there is a coaching staff and a team when all is said and done. And in the second half we just stuck together and fought it out."
Calhoun took another stance on the issue.
"I didn't notice it."
Unless Calhoun has developed a distinct hearing problem, he simply didn't want to turn a positive - a comeback win - into a negative story - the fair-weather attitude of the Husky fans.
After a few days of hearing about how bad the UMass fans were at Saturday's nationally televised game against Boston College, it was evident last night that there is little difference from campus to campus. The bottle-throwing incident can be thrown out as one drunken idiot who should never be allowed back into the Mullins Center.
As for the cheering and jeering that went on Saturday, there was little difference between the student sections at each school. Nothing last night rivaled the chant started up for BC's Troy Bell, but, then again, no Minuteman took a swing at a Husky.
The other difference: UConn is a winning program. Nothing keeps the fans positive and happy like a 6-0 record and a No. 9 national ranking.
ARTFORD, Conn. - In a matter of minutes, the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team's finest moment became its darkest hour.
The Minutemen blew a 25-point lead against their hated rivals and lost to No. 9 Connecticut, 59-48, Tuesday at the Hartford Civic Center.
UMass coach Steve Lappas was pleased with his team's effort, but thought his squad had run out of gas against the Huskies (6-0), who went 12-deep and pressed for much of the game.
"We did a great job tonight," he said. "We played as hard as we could. There's no such thing as a moral victory. I feel like we ran out of gas. We didn't give them the game. They had some steals, but they made some shots.
"I told the guys these six games we played were our learning period. Now the season really starts on Saturday."
UMass (1-5) plays host to Florida International, Saturday at 7 p.m.
At halftime, the Connecticut fans were booing their players as they hung their heads walking off the court, behind 30-9. Even though the UMass players were high-fiving and talking trash, UMass big man Micah Brand said he didn't think the game was over.
"We talked about that at halftime," Brand said. "We knew they had a lot of scorers that weren't hitting shots in the first half."
When Brand and Jackie Rogers both hit spin hooks in the lane to stretch the advantage to 34-9 to open the second half, the small contingent of UMass fans were celebrating.
The UConn uprising started innocuously enough. Tony Robertson hit a pair of free throws and then scored on a breakaway lay-up with just over 17 minutes to play to make it 34-13.
The Huskies, who were 0-for-7 from deep in the first half, found the range when Rashad Anderson nailed a 3 in the corner. Micah Brand answered with two free throws (on two separate trips to the line). The second, which came courtesy of a Jim Calhoun technical, made the score 36-16 with 13:51 left.
The T seemed to ignite the Huskies. Rashad Anderson hit another trey from the same spot and after a Mike Lasme turnover, Ben Gordon followed him with a 3 of his own, forcing Lappas to call time out.
The break slowed UConn briefly, but after an official time out with 11:37 left, Gordon hit another from long range.
The Husky press, which aggravated UMass throughout, forced Anthony Anderson into an over-and-back violation. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Denham Brown and another by Rashad Anderson made it a two-point game, 36-34, with just over nine minutes left.
After two Gordon free throws tied the game, Mike Lasme, who was held scoreless, tried to answer but missed. Jackie Rogers got the rebound, but Emeka Okafor blocked him. UConn pushed the ball up the floor and Okafor's baseline floater gave the Huskies their first lead of the game at 38-36.
Brand hit a spin hook to tie it, ending UConn's 22-0 run and the Minutemen's 13:17 drought without a field goal, but jumpers by Denham Brown and Mike Hayes put the Huskies ahead to stay.
UMass twice got back with in two, but UConn answered both times to hold off the Minutemen.
Brand led UMass with 12 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Anthony Anderson had 13 points and Rogers added 12 as only five UMass players scored.
Gordon led the Huskies with 18 points, while Rashad Anderson added 16 and Denham Brown had 11. Okafor had a season-low four points, but added 13 rebounds and five blocks.
UConn's nine first-half points were the fewest a UMass team had allowed in the first half of a game since 1958 against Trinity.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ARTFORD, Conn. - Heading into Tuesday night's game with the University of Massachusetts, Connecticut freshman guard Rashad Anderson had exactly two career field goals in 11 shots and was averaging just five minutes per game.
On the list of guys UMass was preparing for, he wasn't high. Neither was Denham Brown. The highly-touted Canadian freshman had been good at 8.4 points per game, but on the Huskies' star-filled roster, he hardly stood out.
Neither player was even the highest-profile player in the game with their respective last names, trailing behind UConn point guard Taliek Brown and UMass' Anthony Anderson.
But UConn coach Jim Calhoun's annual windfall recruiting paid off. With the Minutemen shutting down UConn's stars, Rashad Anderson sparked the Huskies' comeback with three second-half 3-pointers en route to a career-high 16 points.
"Coach gave me the green light since the first day of practice," Anderson said. "He told me if I ever catch the ball in the rhythm to shoot it, because he knows its going to go in."
"From the beginning of the year, you could see how confident he was," UConn guard Ben Gordon said about Rashad Anderson. "He's known for his outside shooting, but he played great defense and hit some big shots."
Denham Brown hit a pair from long-range and nine of his 11 points came after intermission.
"You just feed off the confidence of one another," he said. "If you see one guy hit it, then you go for it and hit it and it just causes a chain reaction."
UMass used a variety of defenses against the Huskies with the intent of limiting their high-scorers and forcing other players to carry the load.
"We were trying to make other people to have to beat us and those other people stepped up big for them tonight," UMass junior Marcus Cox said.
"We had to try something a little different to throw them off whack and we did throw them off whack, but that guy came in and saved them," Lappas said about Rashad Anderson. "He was the (high school) player of the year in Florida. He's a great player. I knew he was a shooter. But we decided we're going to test somebody, because you can't guard them all because we weren't going to play them straight man-to-man."
PRESS SUCCESS - If Rashad Anderson killed the Minutemen offensively, the UConn press hurt them at the other end.
UMass coach Steve Lappas said he wasn't expecting it.
"We had practiced for it just in case, but they haven't pressed much," Lappas said. "Tonight we were getting pressed by All-Americans, you can't simulate that in practice."
"Against the press we got a little tired at times," Cox said. "We were tentative at times when we should have attacked more."
UConn scored 21 points off turnovers.
"Our press really saved us tonight and some young freshmen made big plays," Calhoun said.
COX RETURNS - Cox had nine points and five assists in his first game against his former team. Cox played two years in Storrs before transferring to Amherst prior to last season.
He was greeted with boos every time he touched the ball early for the Minutemen, but after the Huskies got down early, the fans focused on booing their own players.
MISCELLANEOUS - UMass shot 7-for-17 from the free throw line. UConn has won the last 12 games in the series.
This was the first year the tilt between the two schools was not dubbed the UGame as former sponsor Mass Mutual Financial was no-longer involved.
The 14,962 fans were the largest crowd to see UMass play so far this year.
This was only the second time this year that UMass outrebounded its opponent, carrying the board battle 41-31.
The Minutemen's 17 turnovers were a season-high.
Matt Vautour can be reached at email@example.com.
ear the end of this remarkable game, Mike Hayes was standing next to Rashad Anderson in the middle of the UConn bench. All around them, fans who booed the Huskies off the floor at halftime were on their feet in astonished tribute.
UConn manages to rebound, but not after a nine-point first half that was an all-time low in the Jim Calhoun era. A look at the halves:
UConn field goals
UC free throws
UC points off turnovers
UM field goals
UM points off turnovers
"Way to step up," Hayes whispered. "We needed you tonight."
The Huskies were 18 minutes from a humbling, discouraging loss. But they forced this game into a white-knuckle, hairpin turn and came out the other side running at full speed. That was too fast for UMass.
Ben Gordon had 18 points and Anderson scored a career-high 16 as ninth-ranked UConn rallied from a 25-point, second-half deficit to beat UMass 59-48 before 14,962 Tuesday night at the Civic Center. Anthony Anderson scored 13 points and Jackie Rogers and Micah Brand each had 12 for UMass.
"It wasn't exactly textbook," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "There's no question the press turned the game around along with Rashad Anderson first, Denham [Brown] second, Ben and Emeka [Okafor] with his shot-blocking. I just think it was a terrific, terrific win for us."
The Huskies trailed 30-9 at the half. Yes, 30-9.
Their offense was flummoxed by an unusual triangle-and-two defense employed by UMass coach Steve Lappas. Rather than focusing on Gordon and Okafor, Lappas went after Gordon and Taliek Brown. This flustered the Huskies, who shot 15.4 percent (4 of 26) from the floor in the first half, including 0-for-7 on threes, and got to the free-throw line only twice.
"We ran absolutely no offense," Gordon said. "I mean zero offense. Everything was one pass and a shot."
Things did not improve at the start of the second half. The Huskies missed their first two shots and two free throws as UMass, which got hoops inside from Brand and Rogers, expanded its lead to 34-9.
This is where the Huskies made their stand. They went on a 29-2 run.
Spurred by their urgent defensive pressure, the Huskies forced eight turnovers and hounded UMass into 11 consecutive misses in the decisive stretch.
"It was apparent to me that in the first half the press was [close] to working," Calhoun said. "All we had to do was get the second line to show a little more and get more active."
They did. And with each miss and every turnover, the Huskies were able to beat the triangle-and-two down the floor. Taliek Brown, limited to one assist in the first half, suddenly found shooters running free.
First it was Anderson. He hit consecutive threes to cut the deficit to less than 20.
Then came Gordon. He hit consecutive threes to make it 36-25.
Then Denham Brown. He hit consecutive threes to make it a five-point game.
When Anderson hit the Huskies' seventh three of the second half, it was a two-point game.
"Coach gave me the green light since the first day of practice," Anderson said. "He told me that if I ever catch the ball in the rhythm to shoot it, because he knows it's going to go in. He's got confidence in me."
The run didn't stop.
Gordon stole a pass from Brand on the wing and sprinted the other way. He was fouled and made both free throws to tie the game at 36 with 7:33 remaining. Okafor gave the Huskies their first lead 1:04 later with a turnaround jumper from the baseline.
"We just kept pushing it and attacking them," Taliek Brown said. "We tried to put the pressure on them on defense and offense. With the pride of our team, we knew we couldn't go out like that, with our fans booing."
UMass (1-5) regrouped to tie the score twice, but both times Hayes stepped outside and knocked down the open foul-line jumper to put UConn (6-0) ahead again.
The Minutemen, who have lost 12 in a row to the Huskies and 20 of 21, hit only 7 of 17 free throws.
"We didn't give them the game," Lappas said. "Yeah, they made a couple of steals and they made some threes, but the kid Rashad Anderson was averaging less than two points per game coming into this and Mike Hayes hasn't made a jump shot from the foul line ever and he makes two in a row. What are you going to say?"
layer Of The Game
Rashad Anderson energized the Huskies with 16 points in 20 minutes. He hit consecutive threes to start the second-half surge.
The press. UConn had three points off turnovers in the first half but finished with 21. The pressure also sped up the game and allowed the Huskies to score in transition.
Play Of The Game
Ben Gordon's steal on the wing of a Micah Brand pass with 7:37 remaining.Gordon was fouled at the other end and made the free throws to tie the score at 36. The Huskies never again trailed.
Not In The Box Score
The nine points at halftime (UConn trailed 30-9) were the fewest in a half during the Jim Calhoun era. The previous low was 13 on Feb. 3, 1987 against St. Peter's. The Huskies trailed 38-13 at the half and lost, 75-50. ... Calhoun was hit with his first technical of the season. John Cahill hit Calhoun with the T with 13:51 remaining. UConn was losing 35-16 at the time. ... The crowd of 14,962 booed the Huskies off the floor at halftime but turned the Civic Center into a cauldron of noise in the second half.
Calhoun didn't seem pleased with the boos. During one timeout he seemed to sarcastically urge on the crowd by waving his hands, but would not comment after the game.
"I didn't notice," he said, laughing.
Center Emeka Okafor's double-double streak ended. He started the season with five consecutive double-doubles, tying Tony Hanson's streak in the 1976-77 season. Okafor had four points and 13 rebounds Tuesday.
Calhoun hugged Marcus Cox at midcourt after the game.
Cox finished with nine points and five assists in 29 minutes for UMass. Calhoun had kind things to say about Cox, who transferred from UConn after the 2000-01 season.
"It was time for him to move on," Calhoun said Monday before the game. "The situation today, the guys he was trying to beat out are still here and have prospered. Taliek [Brown] has a chance to be the all-time assist leader in the history of the school."
Brown and Tony Robertson are a closer match to Calhoun's style.
"Taliek plays a style more preferable to me in terms of guts, toughness and things like that," Calhoun said. "Marcus is a very skilled player. He had to battle with Taliek and that battle became very difficult for him."
Calhoun said Cox has improved at UMass.
"He's stronger and more mature," Calhoun said. "He hasn't been shooting well, which is surprising, but he just looks like a better basketball player."
Robertson, who was sick with the stomach flu, scored four points and passed the 900-point mark. He entered the game with 899 career points. ... Jake Voskuhl, Eric Hayward, Edmund Saunders and Donny Marshall were at the game.
Recruit On TV
The rest of the nation may tune into ESPN2 tonight for a look at LeBron James, but UConn fans will be hoping for a look at Marcus Williams.
Williams, a 6-foot-3 guard from Los Angeles who signed with UConn in November, plays for Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. His team will face James' St. Vincent-St. Mary High of Akron, Ohio.
James, a 6-7 senior, could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft next year if he decides to skip college. The game will be played at Cleveland State University.
North Carolina-Asheville (3-2), Saturday, Dec. 21, Civic Center, noon.
ow let's see. You're probably talking by the water cooler at work or in your little chat rooms about how the Huskies pulled off an unbelievable comeback victory over UMass Tuesday night at the Civic Center.
Now let's see. Are you also the ones who were booing at the end of the half when the Huskies were down, 30-9? Were you the ones who, when coach Jim Calhoun raised his arms and egged you on to boo even more, did it even louder?
I'll bet you were also the ones cheering while the Huskies were in the midst of a 29-2 run on the way to a 59-48 victory.
Hey, look, I'm not a homer for UConn. If they win, they win. If they lose, they lose. I am a homer for kids, though, and there was no reason for the cascade of boos the players got from the fans.
What did you think? That they were trying to lose the game? They needed help, not an insult.
No high school or college team in any sport deserves to be treated that way.
When the day comes that they're getting paid millions of dollars and go on strike because they're not getting enough bread, well, you do what you gotta do.
You've got to give UMass coach Steve Lappas and his Minutemen some credit. They came in with an excellent game plan of trying to slow down the Huskies in order to give themselves a chance.
The Huskies had an idea of what to expect.
UConn prepared for a triangle-and-two that would attempt to neutralize Ben Gordon and either Emeka Okafor or Denham Brown. Instead, UMass played the triangle-and-two on Gordon and Taliek Brown, leaving Denham Brown, a small forward, on the pointtrying to run the team. Okafor picked up two early fouls that limited the defensive stalwart to 11 minutes in the first half.
The Huskies made just 4 of 26 shots in the first half. They passed poorly. They ran poorly. They played defense poorly. They did everything poorly. They were close to getting their press to work, but it didn't happen.
"We got stuck in mud and I'd hope they'd always be there to help us," Calhoun said of the fans.
The UMass game plan was working, that's all, until the Huskies started grooving in the second half while sticking the Minutemen in the mud.
It was a little weird to see Calhoun turn to the crowd and illicit the boos at the end of the half. But it's probably safe to say that he was shocked that the fans, you all around the water coolers and chat rooms, were treating his team that way after all the program has done for the state and all the joy it has brought you.
Remember after the Huskies won the national championship? He called you: "the best fans in America."
Look at you now.
Anyway, asking Calhoun if he felt like dogging you out for what happened is like trying to get him to promise that he will never get another technical. It won't happen. I asked him five different ways if he was surprised. Wouldn't budge.
"That's what this game is, it's a game full of surprises," he said. "I'm sure a lot of people watching and watching on TV and saw 30-9 Connecticut down ... you'd be surprised. It never ceases to surprise me, things that happen."
The thinking among the coaches at halftime was that they had to accept being down 30-9 and had to hold UMass to 30 again in the second half and score 52 to get the victory. They held the Minutemen to 18.
The Huskies started hitting UMass with a 2-2-1 press it will never forget, as well as some textbook defense. They scored 18 points off 12 second-half turnovers. The Minutemen shot 21.7 percent from the field in the second half.
The tape of the second half, Calhoun said, will be the one he'll pull out when his team needs to be reminded of what it could do to a team, no matter what's being done to them.
As the final seconds are ticking away and Calhoun is seconds from shaking hands with Lappas at center court, he turns to the crowd and motions to them as if to say "Now what!"
Assistant coach George Blaney stepped in front and kind of turned him away.
It wasn't necessary, but UConn fans ought to know by now that when you mess with his kids, you're messing with him.
"It was a great comeback by us," he said, laughing.
his was going to be the greatest rivalry in New England sports. Every December, a few weeks after Thanksgiving dinner, UConn and UMass were going to line up for the opening tap and we'd count the ways the schools despised each other. Every December, a few weeks before Christmas, we'd start talking Ray Allen, Dr. J, Marcus Camby and the night in St. Petersburg when, damn, anything was possible.
We'd get all weepy about cold New England nights and piping hot New England basketball barns. Then we'd open our wallets and rush the turnstiles in Hartford, Storrs, Amherst, Worcester and why not Boston someday, too?
Yep, this was going to be the best rivalry in New England history. Both schools were going to run each other ragged and, forget the proposed Enfield toll booth, we'd have to build a wall at the I-91 state line to keep the infidels separated. At one point in 1995, UConn coach Jim Calhoun even predicted it would be a Holy War.
"Then Marcus left," Calhoun said after a most improbable 59-48 victory Tuesday over UMass at the Civic Center. "Then Ray left. And, then John left."
John is the great snake-charmer Calipari and even if he and Calhoun hadn't loved each other, their mutual distaste made us love the prospect of them playing each other. Calipari built a Final Four program, adorned it with the finest jewelry Camby could buy and then bolted in 1996 to the New Jersey Nets for $15 million.
"And me?" Calhoun said. "I'm left standing here."
Dave Gavitt, the godfather of the Big East, had brokered the pact as if it was some kind of Middle East peace accord. They would call it the U-Game and quickly it would become the Me-Game. Both schools were going to get fat off the profits. They decided to split the gate and charge $65, no make that $75 for the top ticket. The teams began to play and UConn won once, twice, thousands of seats went unsold and before we knew it the Huskies won their seventh in a row since the resumption of the Yankee Conference rivalry.
Six years ago, former UConn coach Dee Rowe had called UConn-UMass the Hatfields and McCoys. Soon enough, however, the Holy War became wholly unsatisfying. The McCoys stopped showing up. The $75 tickets became $35 tickets, yet in 2000 the separate-sale, split-gate concept still reached its low point when only 9,123 showed up for a 15-point UConn victory.
About the only Massachusetts-Connecticut matchup worth watching seemed to be John Rowland and Jodi Rell tag-teaming Robert and Jonathan Kraft in Jell-O wrestling. Admit it, you'd cough up 75 beans for that.
That's when an odd, awful thing happened about 8 o'clock Tuesday night. Most of 14,962 fans at the Civic Center began booing. The boos grew louder and louder and by halftime the boos were suffocating. Booing a bunch of college athletes so badly seemed entirely wrong and, although Calhoun's hand gestures to the fans seemed to indicate his dissatisfaction, he refused comment on it afterward.
Taliek Brown was baffled by the UMass triangle defense and by the time UMass was ahead 34-9 with only 17:50 left, it also had grown clear that UConn had so many more chips on the table than UMass. UConn is No. 9. UMass (1-5) lost to Central Connecticut. UConn remains a national powerhouse. Going from Calipari to Bruiser Flint to Steve Lappas, UMass is a regional nag. Maybe Lappas will change the pedigree. We'll see.
In the meantime, UConn had everything to lose Tuesday and UMass had everything to gain.
"We try to help everywhere we can," Calhoun said. "We try to bring a little small sense of joy to everybody."
UConn got its press straightened out. UConn started raining threes. The freshmen got hot. Forced into the hot pace, UMass wore down. UConn went on a 50-18 run to remain undefeated. The crowd, the largest since the resumption of the 106-game series, went wild. The crowd that had paid the usual $27 as part of its season ticket package went home satisfied. Calhoun called the victory unique and maybe it took a unique victory in ordinary environs to show us how to maintain a rivalry.
A lot of folks thought UMass-UConn was history after the contract expired in 2003. Wrong. Tom McElroy, UConn's deputy director of athletics, said before the game that the series has been extended to 2005. Next year is back at the Civic Center. In 2004, it will be Amherst. In 2005, it will be Hartford or Storrs.
"After last year's game when MassMutual elected not to exercise its option this year or next year, we talked to Bill Strickland at UMass and we wanted to keep playing," McElroy said. "It took maybe a 15-minute conversation in the summer and signed the contract in the fall."
Dick Vitale had called Calhoun and Calipari the Frank Lloyd Wrights of college basketball. He pressed the program builders long and loud to play. Well, ESPN was nowhere to be found in 2002.
Heck, nobody's even sure it's called the U-Game anymore.
"The trophy's back on campus," McElroy said. "There was nobody to present it."
Gavitt wasn't here.
"I still think UConn-UMass is a good series," Calhoun said. "I just think they're going through a tough time. We've still played them more than any single opponent and I think we should continue to play them."
Turns out a rivalry isn't how much you pay; it's how well it's played.
ARTFORD, Conn. - My initial instinct when I sat down to write this column was to rip the Minutemen. It would have been easy to do. They blew a 25-point lead in the second half. Think about that - a 25-point lead. Against not just any UConn team, but one ranked No. 9 in the country. The benefits reaped from winning would have been sizable.
I can only imagine the reaction that came from UMass fans in front of TVs, radios and computers around western Massachusetts and the rest of the Commonwealth as their dream of finally beating UConn after 11 years was yanked away by that brutal second half.
I can write a rip-job column in my sleep after some of the games UMass has lost in recent years. But I'm resisting because despite the final result and the devastating run, I thought it was an encouraging performance.
I'm sure the dissenters will be numerous. Call me an idiot if you want. My e-mail address is at the bottom.
I'm not saying it was good. This game hurts more because it was the third straight tough loss for UMass. But this game wasn't nearly as bad as blowing a 15-point lead to Central Connecticut or the Minutemen's mailed-in performance against Boston College.
First, UConn is a better basketball team than UMass. The Huskies feature a handful of high-school All-Americans and their bench could probably at least make the NIT by itself.
Tuesday night they went nine-deep and they pressed UMass.
The Minutemen haven't really been pressed in a game yet this year. You can practice a press all you want in practice, but being pressured by walk-ons and reserves isn't the same as getting it from UConn's thoroughbreds.
Plus the Huskies' depth was obvious by the performance of Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson. To have players like that as fifth and sixth offensive options is a testament to the collection of talent Calhoun has stockpiled.
UMass coach Steve Lappas had an effective defensive game plan against Ben Gordon, Taliek Brown and Emeka Okafor, but Calhoun had enough weapons to still be successful with those players slowed.
What was encouraging for UMass was that the things that had stood out as glaring problems prior to this game were much improved:
- Anthony Anderson wasn't as good as he can be - as he did make some mistakes - but he looked much more confident and consequently the team looked better around him.
"I thought Anthony Anderson was tremendous as a quarterback tonight," Lappas said.
- Micah Brand, who's had his heart questioned of late, played hard throughout. He called for the ball and made a tough shot over the nation's best shot-blocker (Emeka Okafor) to end UConn's devastating run. He had a career high 13 rebounds, showing a willingness to work inside.
"With Micah it's either going to be a break-out game or add to the frustrating lore," Lappas said. "You want this to be a game that he points to and says 'I did this. I can do this. No, I have to do it all the time.' You want him to build on this game."
- Marcus Cox, who'd struggled so far this season and had every reason in the world to try to do too much didn't. Despite playing against his former team in his home state, he played within himself with nine points, four rebounds and five assists. He drew several charges and was a big reason UMass was successful early.
In the end, this was what was supposed to happen. In fact, the final score was closer than the 151/2 points that the Vegas wise guys set as the line.
If UMass had blown a lead of that size to Kentucky, Kansas or Duke, fans would have still been disappointed. But the fact that it came against UConn makes them mad and the Huskies may be better than the aforementioned trio.
UMass has a long way to go. If they don't bring this new-found intensity into every game, this was just another loss.
But if it's a step toward something, it could be a very valuable game.
"If we had played with this kind of conviction in our first six games, we wouldn't be in the predicament we're in," Lappas said.
He's right. But playing with that conviction might be the Minutemen's only chance to resurrect their season.
It was a disappointing loss in a season that's had extra helpings of them already. But it could be a step in the right direction.
Matt Vautour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Viggiano hacks Rashad Anderson to prevent the fast-break layup.
Anthony Anderson tries to stay upright, working against Taliek Brown.
Taliek Brown tries to drive past Mike Lasme.
Whatever Jim Calhoun said at halftime woke up his squad.
Emeka Okafor sets up in front of Micah Brand.
Mike Lasme keeps an eye on Ben Gordon.
|Connecticut Huskies (#9)||59|
at the Hartford Civic Center
Official Basketball Box Score Massachusetts vs Connecticut 12/10/02 7:00 p.m. at Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, Conn. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- VISITORS: Massachusetts 1-5 TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 02 ROGERS,Jackie....... f 6-12 0-0 0-0 3 4 7 5 12 0 4 1 0 29 34 LAMB,Raheim......... f 0-4 0-1 0-0 5 1 6 2 0 2 2 0 1 25 40 BRAND,Micah......... c 5-13 0-1 2-4 4 9 13 3 12 1 3 3 0 35 12 ANDERSON,Anthony.... g 4-9 3-8 2-2 1 5 6 2 13 1 1 0 2 40 50 COX,Marcus.......... g 3-9 0-2 3-6 3 1 4 4 9 5 3 0 1 29 01 LASME,Michael....... 0-4 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 14 04 LEE,Gabe............ 0-1 0-0 0-4 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 15 22 VIGGIANO,Jeff....... 1-1 0-0 0-1 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 13 TEAM................ 1 3 4 1 Totals.............. 19-53 3-13 7-17 17 24 41 18 48 9 17 4 4 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 14-30 46.7% 2nd Half: 5-23 21.7% Game: 35.8% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-6 33.3% 2nd Half: 1-7 14.3% Game: 23.1% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 0-5 0.0% 2nd Half: 7-12 58.3% Game: 41.2% 7
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- HOME TEAM: Connecticut 6-0 TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS ## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN 25 HAYNES,Mike......... f 2-5 0-0 0-2 2 1 3 4 4 0 2 0 0 25 33 BROWN,Denham........ f 3-8 2-5 3-4 1 1 2 0 11 0 0 0 0 19 50 OKAFOR,Emeka........ c 1-4 0-0 2-2 3 10 13 3 4 0 2 5 2 31 04 GORDON,Ben.......... g 4-9 3-4 7-8 0 2 2 3 18 1 2 0 1 31 12 BROWN,Taliek........ g 0-2 0-1 2-2 1 3 4 2 2 9 2 0 2 39 05 WISE,Chad........... 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 11 ARMSTRONG,Hilton.... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 20 BROWN,Justin........ 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 21 HAZELTON,Scott...... 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 7 30 TOOLES,Shamon....... 0-2 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 4 31 ANDERSON,Rashad..... 5-11 3-7 3-4 0 1 1 2 16 1 0 1 2 20 32 ROBERTSON,Tony...... 1-3 0-1 2-2 0 0 0 3 4 1 2 0 1 15 TEAM................ 1 1 2 1 1 Totals.............. 16-48 8-19 19-24 11 20 31 20 59 12 12 6 8 200
TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 4-26 15.4% 2nd Half: 12-22 54.5% Game: 33.3% DEADB 3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 0-7 0.0% 2nd Half: 8-12 66.7% Game: 42.1% REBS F Throw % 1st Half: 1-2 50.0% 2nd Half: 18-22 81.8% Game: 79.2% 2
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Officials: Jim Burr, John Cahill, Will Bush Technical fouls: Massachusetts-None. Connecticut-TEAM. Attendance: 14962 Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total Massachusetts................. 30 18 - 48 Connecticut................... 9 50 - 59