Oh So Close
By JIM O’CONNELL AP Basketball Writer
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ Georgetown was looking for the win that would extend its winning streak and lead in the Big East Conference.
Connecticut was looking for THE win, a chance to celebrate in a season winding down with no postseason opportunities.
Both teams gave incredible efforts in a double-overtime game finally won 79-78 by the seventh-ranked Hoyas on Wednesday night.
It wasn’t only the players who left Gampel Pavilion exhausted and spent emotionally. The sellout crowd of 10,167 seemed ready to storm the court a couple of times only to see the Hoyas find a way to win.
“That was a hell of a basketball game right there,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said of his team’s10th straight win. “They guys in the other locker room, they could have cashed it in. … They fought and fought and fought. We had our chances to end it. We didn’t. Then we could have cashed it in but we fought and fought and fought.”
That was a double-overtime game that had two triple foughts.
“That’s not a good win, it’s a great win,” Thompson said.
Otto Porter Jr. scored down low with 9.5 seconds remaining in the second overtime to help Georgetown erase a seven-point deficit over the final 2:03. The Hoyas knew the other side of that as well, blowing a 12-point lead over the final 4:36 of regulation.
Porter scored 21 of his 22 points after halftime in a wild game that saw Georgetown (22-4, 12-3 Big East) stay in first place in the conference.
“He makes winning plays,” Thompson said of Porter, who was coming off a career-high 33-point effort in a win over No. 12 Syracuse. “Coming down at the end, it was, `Let’s get a stop and then let’s get it to Otto and go.”’
Porter said once the Hoyas got the stop they needed so badly, “I just sprinted the lane. … I saw Mikael (Hopkins) sprint to the rim so I was able to use him to get to the rim.”
The Hoyas improved to 1-3 in Gampel Pavilion, Connecticut’s 23-year-old on-campus arena. The Huskies (19-8, 9-6) play most of their big conference games at the XL Center in Hartford.
This was a memorable visit for a team that, along with Syracuse, has to be considered the Huskies’ biggest rival in the Big East, which is facing incredible changes in the coming years.
“I thought I had seen it all but I guess I haven’t,” Huskies first-year coach Kevin Ollie said. “We had it. They had it. It happens.”
Markel Starks had 19 points for Georgetown, while D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 14.
DeAndre Daniels had 25 points, one off his career high, and 10 rebounds for the Huskies. Shabazz Napier added 16 points and Omar Calhoun had 13. Napier had six assists and backcourt mate Ryan Boatright had eight.
“It was a very, very, very emotional game,” said Boatright, who had 11 points but was just 1 of 7 from 3-point range _ and that included the last shot of the game. “It actually felt good coming off my hand. It was just short.”
Ollie said that wasn’t what he wanted for the chance to win.
“The last shot wasn’t what we were looking for,” he said. “Ryan was trying to rush to get the ball to the rim but Porter got there and they cut him off and got him in the corner.”
The second half and two overtimes were a 3-point feast for both teams, who both were 1 for 5 from 3-point range. After halftime Georgetown, who is third in conference at 36 percent from beyond the arc, was 10 for 15 on 3s, including making eight of its first nine. The Huskies, who lead the conference at 38.8 percent, were 10 for 24 from long range.
Porter made two free throws with 4:36 to let Georgetown match its largest lead of the game, 60-48.
Despite the double-digit deficit, the Huskies weren’t about to let a sellout crowd of 10,167 leave in the rain without a run at the Hoyas.
Calhoun hit a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 spurt that was capped by two free throws from Daniels with 2:30 left that made it 60-57.
Georgetown came up empty three times on its next possession but Smith-Rivera stole the ball at midcourt and went in for a layup that gave the Hoyas a 62-57 lead with 1:08 left.
Calhoun scored on a rebound and, after Starks missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 8.7 seconds left, Calhoun nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner. With the crowd going wild, the Huskies’ Niles Giffey sprinted across the court and stole the inbounds pass just past the 3-point line. He lined up and got a good look but the ball bounced off the rim.
If it had gone in there was no telling how the crowd would have reacted because the Huskies are ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA violations.
Giffey made one free throw with 2:03 left in the second overtime to make it 78-71. There was a sigh of relief as the fans, and the Huskies, seemed to think it was over.
Nobody told the Hoyas.
Porter and Smith-Rivera hit 3s to make it a one-point game with 50 seconds left. After a turnover, Porter scored with 9.5 seconds left. The Huskies had one last chance but Boatright’s shot from in front of the UConn bench bounced off the rim.
It was Connecticut’s sixth overtime game of the season _ the Huskies are 4-2. Georgetown is 1-1, with the loss coming on Nov. 20 against No. 1 Indiana.
The Huskies have three games left _ making them one of the few teams that know the date their season will end _ and Ollie expects the same kind of effort in those.
“I want to coach the best-attitude team in America,” Ollie said. “They are playing for something. I hate it’s coming to the end, but I wouldn’t take it back for the world.”
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