Huskies roll over Tide
Phoenix, AZ (Sports Network) – Ben Gordon poured in a game-high 36 points, as
Connecticut advanced to the Final Four with an easy 87-71 victory over Alabama
in the Phoenix bracket regional final of the NCAA Tournament at America West
Gordon, who was named MVP of the bracket, ended 11-of-19 from the field and
was 10-of-11 from the foul line for the second-seeded Huskies (31-6), who
advanced to the Final Four for the second time in school history.
Connecticut’s only other trip to the national semifinals came in 1999 when it
went on to capture the NCAA championship.
“We’ve had some times where the mantle of expectations weighed heavily upon
us,” Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun said. “As the season started to close
down and we saw our window of opportunity become more limited, we kicked the
window out and became a terrific, terrific basketball team.”
Rashad Anderson scored a career-high 28 points as he connected on 6-of-9
three-point tries for the Huskies, who will take on either Duke or Xavier in
next Saturday’s Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.
“It’s going to take a great game to beat them,” Alabama head coach Mark
Gottfried said. “They’ve just got so many weapons.”
Emeka Okafor, who played only 19 minutes after suffering a stinger on his
right shoulder early in the first half, scored just two points, but grabbed
nine rebounds and blocked five shots for Connecticut.
“It’s a little stinger, not too serious,” said Okafor.
Chuck Davis had 24 points and nine boards and Kennedy Winston scored 21 for
the eighth-seeded Crimson Tide (20-13), who were making their first-ever
appearance in the Elite Eight.
The Huskies connected on 25-of-60 shots (42 percent) and were 15-of-18 from
the foul line (83 percent). Alabama made 48 percent of its attempts (29-of-60)
and just 66 percent from the foul line (19-of-29).
Connecticut grabbed a 13-8 lead on Gordon’s three-pointer with 14:04 left in
the first half and the margin grew to eight points on Anderson’s offensive
putback moments later.
Anderson’s three-pointer stretched the cushion to 26-15 with 10:08 left and
the Huskies extended the advantage to 13 points on Gordon’s deep three just
over four minutes later.
Alabama then showed signs of life and used a 5-0 run to pull within 33-25 with
just over five minutes remaining in the half. However, Connecticut then
steadied itself and scored 13 of the next 15 points, keyed by eight from
Gordon, to grab a commanding 46-27 advantage with 2:28 left in the half.
Another three-point shot by Anderson late in the half accounted for the final
points and staked Connecticut to a hefty 53-29 edge heading into the
Anderson scored 22 points as he hit all six of his three-point tries in the
opening half. Gordon chipped in 18 points for the Huskies, who were 18-of-34
from the field and made 9-of-11 three-point shots in the opening 20 minutes.
“Both of us have never shot that well in any one game this year,” Gordon said.
“I think the man upstairs just gave us the talent to do that today.”
Winston netted 13 points for the Crimson Tide, who connected on just 12-of-35
shots, including a 2-of-12 effort from behind the arc, in the first half.
“I had a chance to sit around and watch them (Connecticut) play all season,
and I’ve never seen them shoot the ball like that and work the inside-outside
like they were,” Davis said. “I think they made their first seven 3s. They
came out ready to play.”
Connecticut led by as many as 26 points early in the second half, but Alabama
did not go away and tried to mount a charge.
Trailing by 20 later in the half, the Crimson Tide used a 6-0 run to pull
within 76-62 with 4:40 remaining, but they did not get any closer.