The shock and the disappointment were still too fresh for UConn to feel the pride. That will come.
But one more big upset, one more coup to show the country, perhaps once and for all, what they were all about, was in their grasp. It got away and, for the moment, that was all that mattered.
"This was a very, very, very, very emotional game," said Ryan Boatright, after UConn's 79-78 double overtime loss to Georgetown before 10,167 Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion. "These games are the toughest pills to swallow."
The Huskies came back, yet again, from a double-digit deficit and tied the game on Omar Calhoun's three-point shot with 2.2 seconds to go in regulation. In the second overtime, they grabbed a seven-point lead with 2:03 to play.
But Georgetown does not sit atop the Big East and is not ranked seventh for nothing, and Otto Porter Jr. is not considered the best player in the league for nothing. Porter, who was shut down for long stretches by UConn's defense, hit a three-pointer to give the Hoyas life. Then D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera hit a three to bring Georgetown within one, as UConn's offense sputtered at the crucial moment.
Then Shabazz Napier, having changed his shoes to compensate for an injured right foot, lost the ball on UConn's end, and a chance to seal the game slipped away.
"I said, 'Let's get a stop and then get it to Otto and let him go," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "I didn't want to take a timeout and let them set up their defense."
In the mad scramble to the rim, Porter drove the lane and laid the ball in off the glass to put the Hoyas ahead with 9.5 seconds left. "Once we got the stop," Porter said, "I just sprinted the lane."
Boatright took the ball up the court, was knocked off course by Smith-Rivera, and ended up launching a desperate three, but it hit glass and rim and time expired, Gampel falling silent.
"This is going to hurt for a while," Napier said.
UConn (19-8, 9-6), picked ninth in the league before the season, went toe-to-toe with the first-place team. Georgetown (22-4, 12-3) was, in fact, picked to finish fifth, but took over first place with its huge win at Syracuse last weekend. When the Hoyas hit eight of nine three-point attempts during one torrid stretch of the second half, they opened a 12-point lead, 53-41, with 8:54 left, but UConn would not let the Hoyas run away.
"When it looked like we were dead in the water, the crowd kept giving us energy, energy, energy," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said.
The Huskies went on to erase a second-half deficit of 10 or more points for the seventh time this season. Still down nine with 4:07 left, UConn pulled closer on Napier's field goal, and closer still on Boatright's runner and DeAndre Daniels' two free throws. Daniels spent most of the night guarding Porter, and the rest of it putting together UConn's first double-double of the season, with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
"[Daniels] is a terrific player, by the way," Porter said.
When Smith-Rivera scored to give Georgetown a five-point lead with less than a minute to go, it looked safe. But after Boatright scored, Smith-Rivera Markel Starks missed the front end of a one-and-one and Boatright brought the ball up, found Calhoun wide open, and the confident freshman from New York City hit the shot, bringing down the packed Husky house with 2.2 seconds left.
"I tried to spread the floor best I could," Calhoun said, "and when I got the ball, I knew I was in range."
Niels Giffey stole the in-bounds pass and nearly won it right there, but his 30-foot shot was off, and UConn went to overtime for the sixth time this season.
"They showed a tremendous will to win," Thompson said. "I know it's easier for me to say than Kevin right now, but it was a terrific basketball game."
Neither team took control in the first OT, but Daniels and Napier, who scored 16, hit three-pointers to nudge UConn out in front. When Giffey hit two free throws, it was 77-71 Next time down the floor, Giffey made 1 of 2 to make it a seven-point lead.
But this time UConn, which had upset ranked teams Michigan State and Syracuse earlier in the year, and won four of five overtime games, just could not close the deal.
"It's going to take a long time to get over it," Daniels said, "because we had it, and we gave it away."
UConn, using Calhoun, Giffey and Daniels in shifts on Porter, held him to one point in the first half. The Hoyas were 6 of 21 from the floor, missing 10 in a row at one point, and the Huskies led 22-16 late in the half, 22-19 at the break. But Porter shook loose with 14 points in the second half, and he finished with 22. Markel Starks scored 19 and Smith-Rivera 14.
Calhoun had 13 and Boatright 11 for the Huskies, who outrebounded Georgetown 38-28. The Hoyas were 11 of 20 on three-pointers, working their maddening, motion offense for open looks. UConn, stifled by Georgetown's defense and more often forced to take desperate threes at the end of the shot clock, made 11 of 29. That was probably the difference in the game though, still, UConn had it in hand.
"I'm very proud of my guys," Ollie said. "They showed character, they showed perseverance, they showed heart. That's what our team is all about, heart. You can say we're small, say we don't rebound, but I hope you all write that we've got heart. And I'd go to battle with them every day — all of them."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun