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February 28, 2013

Huskies Lose Heartbreaker

STORRS, Conn. - Head coach Kevin Ollie's opening comment in the post-game press conference probably summed it up best.

"So I thought I'd seen it all, but I guess I haven't," said the first-year head coach.

You couldn't make up the final minutes of regulation if you tried, and yet there was a more improbable finish possible that didn't quite materialize. As if that wasn't enough, there were more plot twists and turns in two overtime periods before Georgetown finally emerged victorious over Connecticut by a 79-78 score at Gampel Pavilion.

The Huskies were down 60-48 with 4:36 left after two Otto Porter, Jr. free throws. Then they scored the next nine points as part of a 14-2 run to force overtime, and nearly won in regulation when Georgetown erratically inbounded the ball right to Neils Giffey with 2.2 seconds left. But Giffey's shot at the buzzer was an airball. Had he made it, as Shabazz Napier thought he would, Gampel Pavilion would have erupted like never before and we would have had a better script than anything Hollywood could come up with.

The first overtime didn't have as much suspense and was tied at 69 for the final 2:28. In the second overtime, the Huskies went up 78-71 with just over two minutes left. Porter hit a quick three-pointer, then after a turnover D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera made it a one-point game with another three-pointer. Porter then got a layup off another Husky turnover, and Ryan Boatright could only get off a bad three-point shot in front of the UConn bench before time expired, though it did draw iron.

And with that, the Huskies went from a sure loss to a likely win to a loss.

"We had it, they had it. It happens," said Ollie.

Turning Point

There isn't enough space to list all the turning points in this one. But the last, and most important, turning point of the night came when the Huskies turned the ball over after a timeout with just over a minute to go, then Smith-Rivera hit a big three-pointer with 50.3 seconds left to make it a one-point game. You sensed things were turning against the Huskies at that point after they had all the momentum just a minute earlier, and that set the stage for the final seconds.

What Went Right

In the first half, the Huskies controlled the inside, which may be hard to fathom given these teams' personnel. But they got the ball inside often, posting a 16-8 edge in points in the paint, and they kept Georgetown out for the most part and limited the ball movement. For the evening, they out-rebounded the Hoyas 38-28.

Deandre Daniels continues to appear more confident. The Huskies said he needs to have the confidence that he can be a strong contributor to this team, and he looks that way. His stat line of 25 points and 10 rebounds - the first double-double by a Husky all season - backs that up.

"He definitely has a lot more confidence than he had at the beginning of the year," Boatright said of Daniels. "His confidence is going to be sky-high after this game. He played a terrific game. He didn't only score, he played defense. He had a terrific first half defensively."

What Went Wrong

The guards never really got going for much of this game, and if the Huskies are going to win they certainly need the kind of production they normally get from Napier and Boatright. Napier finished with 16 points on 6-16 shooting and six assists, and Boatright had 11 on 5-15 shooting and eight assists, but for a lot of the first 25 minutes of the game the Huskies led or were right there despite not getting much from them.

The Huskies also didn't defend the three-point line well in the stat sheet, as Georgetown went 11-20 from long range. But the numbers don't tell you why that happened. The Hoyas were 10-15 from long range after intermission, largely because they were able to move the ball better to get better shots. Perhaps the thin Huskies wore down, but the defense simply wasn't as good in the second half as Georgetown got to play their game more at the offensive end and it showed in the three-point shooting as much as anywhere else.

Three Stars of the Game

1. DeAndre Daniels: He posted the first double-double by a Husky all season and did so while taking a beating inside all night long. He also did a fair job on the likely Big East Player of the Year, although Porter's numbers won't indicate that since he had 22 points on 7-12 shooting, including 3-4 from long range. He shut Porter down in the first half.

2. Shabazz Napier: He might have best epitomized the Huskies on this night by playing on a bad foot for most of the second half and the two overtime periods. After a bad landing on a layup, he came back in and did most of his damage even while clearly being hobbled.

3. Omar Calhoun: He hit the big shot in regulation to send it to overtime. It wasn't his best night all in all, but he did have 13 points on 5-11 shooting and seven rebounds, and that shot capped a huge rally and gave the Huskies a chance they probably had no business having.

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