Saturday , Feb , 28 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Villanova’s upset attempt blocked by Okafor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Emeka Okafor scored 17 points to lead
eighth-ranked Connecticut to a narrow 75-74 overtime victory over Villanova in
Big East action at the Wachovia Center.

Josh Boone added 11 points and Taliek Brown netted 10 for the Huskies (23-5,
11-3 Big East), who have won four straight. Okafor, who leads the nation
in blocks, finished with one. He was bothered all game with back spasms.

“If he was hurt, I didn’t know it,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said
of Okafor. “He played a great game.”

Curtis Sumpter led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting for
Villanova (14-13, 6-8) which is in the midst of a three-game losing
streak. Allan Ray added 20 points and Randy Foye chipped in with 10 points in
the setback.

Sumpter’s turnaround bank shot gave Villanova a 74-73 lead with 19 seconds
left in overtime. It was Boone who made the biggest basket in the extra
session. His putback off a Ben Gordon miss put the Huskies ahead 75-74 with
5.5 seconds left in overtime. Boone was never boxed out on the play and snuck
in on the baseline for the follow up.

With a chance to win, Foye got the ball for Nova at half court, split two
defenders with the dribble and headed straight towards the rim, but Okafor
met him at the basket as time expired.

“Nobody in the country can change a game like that,” Connecticut head coach
Jim Calhoun said. “He (Okafor) showed why he’s the best defensive player in
the country. Emeka Okafor comes along once in a lifetime.”

The game was tight throughout, as Nova looked to open up some breathing room,
taking a six-point lead, 53-47, following Will Sheridan’s dunk with 9:12 left
in regulation. The lead would grow to seven points at 59-52 on a Ray jumper
with around six minutes left.

However, Connecticut went on a 14-7 flurry to close out the game, capped by
Rashad Anderson’s baseline trey to tie up the contest at 66-66 with seven
seconds left. The Wildcats were not over the foul limit and had the
opportunity to foul, taking time off the clock, but they elected not to. They
paid for the mistake as Anderson found himself alone on the baseline and
knocked down the trey.

Villanova had the chance to win the game as Foye went the length of the court
and appeared to have an open lane to the basket. Okafor, who up to that point
did not have a block on the day, rotated over quickly and rejected Foye’s
running shot as time expired in regulation.

A Gordon free throw gave the Huskies a 18-12 advantage with around 11 minutes
left before halftime.

Villanova answered with a small 6-0 burst, capped by Sumpter’s jumper,
knotting the contest up at 18-18 moments later.

The rest of the half was closely played, with no team leading by more than
three points. The contest was closely played the rest of the half, both teams
headed into the locker room tied up at 36-36.