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Gut-Check Win for Huskies

The 72-55 win over DePaul and former Connecticut assistant Leitao is hard on Calhoun.

March 21, 2004|Matt Eagan | Hartford Courant

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The two coaches walked slowly toward each other and hugged at midcourt.

Both wanted this game, but neither wanted it to be against the other.

This is the cruel justice of the NCAA tournament.

Jim Calhoun, upset stomach and all, will go to Phoenix.

Dave Leitao, Calhoun's former player and longtime assistant, will go home and think about a season in which he restored the tradition of DePaul basketball.

"My hat's off to Dave Leitao," Calhoun said. "He's done a tremendous job. I would love to be going somewhere in our region with Dave going somewhere else but that isn't the way it works. That's the only sad part about this for me."

All the talk before this one was about the coaches, but players have a big say in these games. The Blue Demons were tall all over the court and it seemed to be the kind of advantage they could exploit, but they could not.

From the first minute until the final one, the Huskies were simply too fast.

Ben Gordon had 18 points and Denham Brown had 12 as second-seeded Connecticut defeated No. 7 DePaul, 72-55, Saturday in a second-round game at HSBC Arena.

Drake Diener led the Blue Demons with 15.

"The accomplishments that they had will go in the great history that is DePaul University," Leitao said.

The Huskies will make their 10th appearance in the Sweet 16 under Calhoun, who missed about 6 1/2 minutes of the second half because of an upset stomach, returning late in the game. Connecticut will play the winner of today's Vanderbilt-North Carolina State game in a Phoenix Regional semifinal Thursday at America West Arena.

Top-seeded Stanford and fourth-seeded Maryland were eliminated from the Phoenix bracket Saturday by Alabama and Syracuse.

The Huskies (29-6) are two wins from San Antonio and the Final Four.

Connecticut led, 39-20, at halftime and scored the first four points to stop any thoughts about miracle comebacks.

Both baskets were created by Taliek Brown (11 points), who took an outlet from Josh Boone and bounced it ahead to Rashad Anderson for a dunk to start the second half. Brown then went past Sammy Mejia and scored off the glass.

Leitao called timeout and the Blue Demons (22-10) tried to regroup again. They were steadied by the break but could not do more than dent the Huskies' advantage.

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