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Arizona Can't Pull Rank on Connecticut

January 27, 2002|From Associated Press

TUCSON — Connecticut finally made the national rankings Monday, barely, at No. 25.

Saturday's nationally televised 100-98 overtime victory over No. 10 Arizona should earn the Huskies a little more attention.

"It's clearly the biggest statement we've made as a team this year, and it was a great basketball game," Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun said. "We had to draw everything out within ourselves to win."

Connecticut freshmen Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon shared the spotlight.

Okafor was a blocked shot shy of a triple-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Gordon matched his career-high with 23 points and had a career-best nine assists as Connecticut (14-3) won its sixth in a row and defeated Arizona (13-6) for the third time in as many games.

"This was a classic game," said Connecticut's Taliek Brown, who scored four of his 21 points in overtime. "They would hit threes, then we would score, and then we would play good defense, and it was just back and forth the whole game."

Arizona's Salim Stoudamire made consecutive three-point shots to start the overtime, giving the Wildcats a 97-91 lead.

But a three-point basket by Gordon and two layups by Brown gave Connecticut a 98-97 lead with a minute left.

Arizona's Jason Gardner, who had a game-high 30 points but none in overtime, missed a three-point shot, then Johnnie Selvie scored inside to give Connecticut a 100-97 lead with 20 seconds remaining.

Gardner was fouled by Brown just before taking a three-point shot with 10 seconds left. He missed the first free throw and made the second.

Arizona stole the inbounds pass, but Will Bynum missed a wide-open three-point shot from the baseline with two seconds left.

Gardner had scored 24 points in the second half to allow Arizona to overcome a 14-point deficit. Gardner made an NBA-length three-point shot to give the Wildcats a 91-89 lead with 41 seconds left in regulation, but Butler's inside basket with 19 seconds to play tied it.

After Gardner's driving layup was blocked by Okafor, Luke Walton threw the inbounds pass away--one of his seven turnovers--but Connecticut couldn't get a shot off before the regulation ended.

"The difference in the game was Okafor," Arizona Coach Lute Olson said. "Every time we seemed to have an opportunity to get to the bucket, he was there. He changed the total complexion of the game."

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