Connecticut had pulled two great escapes during this NCAA Tournament. Why not another one?
That's what the Huskies were thinking when they got Sunday's Washington Regional final into overtime on Denham Brown's layup at the buzzer. But this time, they ran out of magic.
"It's so upsetting after all the hard work that we've done," Brown said after the Huskies' 86-84 defeat. "After so much, to rely on one shot every game is tough. This isn't good enough, not with the caliber of team we have. Obviously George Mason played a great game but we were really looking forward to the Final Four. It just never happened."
Although UConn has been ranked at or near the top of the polls all season and entered this game 30-3, coach Jim Calhoun has freely admitted his team was flawed. Marcus Williams is the only true guard and the huge frontline has been spotty, as evidenced by the six-point, four-rebound no-show by 6-foot-10 Josh Boone.
With Boone in a fog most of the game, the Huskies were lucky that 6-6 freshman Jeff Adrien had the game of his career with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Adrien, averaging just 6.2 points, had not hit in double figures in the last 10 games and played only five minutes Friday night.
"He was magnificent," Calhoun said.
Calhoun thought the Brown layup would turn the tide in his team's favor just like Rasad Anderson's buzzer-beating three-pointer did Friday night against Washington.
"I thought we had dodged the bullet," Calhoun said. "When we got into overtime, I'm saying we're in pretty good shape right now. We needed an adrenaline shot and that got us going. It was less than 48 hours from that situation. Then Rudy Gay wins the tap. The other night we scored, today we threw it away."
Gay, the 6-9 sophomore almost certain to be headed for the NBA lottery, hit several rainbow jumpers to help keep the Huskies in the hunt and rued what's likely his last chance at a title.
"I thought this team could have done a lot more things. We just fell short," Gay said. "We definitely could have gone all the way. For us to go down like this, it hurts.'
"It doesn't always go the way you planned," Calhoun said. "They don't measure heart by inches. They don't measure courage or basketball instinct or intelligence. The game is beautiful because you can win in so many ways. . . . I just give [George Mason] all the credit in the world. They're not on a 'magic carpet ride' because there's any myth here. They're just really, really good."