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Narrow escapes make UConn wary

As No. 1 seeds go, Connecticut has been a bust thus far in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies were nearly victims of a historic first-round upset by No. 16 Albany and struggled past Kentucky so coach Jim Calhoun is wary of what might take place tonight when his team meets No. 5 Washington in the Verizon Center.

"They are everything advertised," Calhoun said of the West Coast Huskies. "Brandon Roy (Washington's All-America guard) is in my opinion one of the top two or three players in the country. There are kids who can score, kids who can rebound, kids who pass, kids who defend and kids who have a feel for the game and he has all of those attributes.

Calhoun knows the knock on his team is that it's prone to lapses but he said the last 11 minutes against Albany -- when UConn used a 34-9 run to wipe out a 12-point deficit -- is the kind of play his team is capable of.

"I'll take that tape, play it back 100 times and that honestly would be the instructional video I would use for my team next year," Calhoun said. "We were great but that's not as good a game to use because there's a reason for the (first) 30 minutes. . . . This has not been quite as mature a team as I would like but I truly expect -- and I hope it happens -- for us to have a bust-out game."

When Connecticut and Washington met in the Sweet 16 in 1998 in Greensboro, N.C., UConn won it, 75-74, on Richard "Rip" Hamilton's fallaway putback that hung over the rim and dropped through at the buzzer.

"It's probably the second-greatest shot in UConn history," said Calhoun, putting it behind only Tate George's buzzer-beater against Clemson in the 1990 Sweet 16. "Rip has called to tell us all about it again and remind the guys that he did not lose to Washington -- but we came within a millisecond of that happening."

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Calhoun isn't happy with tonight's scheduled 9:57 p.m. tipoff but said he didn't think the players would be affected.

"I talked to one of our players today and said simply, 'How did you sleep last night?' " Calhoun said. "He goes, 'I went to bed early. I was in bed by 1:15 [a.m.]. That's early. It's only us old folks that have to go to bed by 11 or 12."

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George Mason has several St. Bonaventure connections. Mason Athletics Director Tom O'Connor, who was on the NCAA selection committee this year, was the AD at Bona from 1992-94. Bona grad Kevin McNamee is one of his assistant ADs; he held a similar position in Olean. Jim Engelhardt, a Bona grad who was the school's sports information director in the 1980s and '90s, also worked for O'Connor at Mason and remains close to the program.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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