By Kevin Sweeney
There have been some crazy games this year in college basketball. This one may have been the craziest.
UCONN, who was projected to miss the NCAA Tournament with a loss today, survived 4 overtimes to knock off Cincinnati in a quarterfinal matchup in the AAC Tournament. Daniel Hamilton had a career day for the Huskies, scoring 32 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, and adding 8 assists.
With the stakes high for both teams, it was Cincinnati who came with the hot hand early. The Bearcats took an 11-4 lead in the opening minutes and didn’t look back for the rest of the half, as they led all the way. UCONN at one point cut the deficit to just 4, but a quick 9-0 run by the Bearcats quickly quieted a fairly large UCONN fan contingent. The first half ended with Cincinnati up by 9, and UCONN knowing that they had to make a push to keep their season alive.
The second half opened in a much different way than the first. This time, it was UCONN who made the first push. The Huskies went on a 16-2 run to take a 4 point lead with 11:00 to go in the ballgame. UCONN maintained this lead until around the 4 minute mark, when Troy Caupain took over for the Bearcats. He scored 6 of the half’s final 11 points to help the Bearcats overcome a seven point deficit and send the game to overtime. Caupain had a shot to win the game as the clock ran out, but he couldn’t get it to fall.
The overtime periods were full of drama and suspense. In the first overtime period, defense was the story. Both teams surrendered just 5 points each, with UCONN only having one player score. That player was Hamilton, who really controlled the game in overtime. Caupain once again had the final shot, but his 3 rimmed out and the game was headed to a second overtime.
In the beginning of the second overtime, it appeared that Cincinnati was ready to pull away. They owned a pair of 4 point leads in the period. However, UCONN center Amida Brimah scored the next 4 points to even the score once again. Caupain finished an acrobatic left-handed floater with 15 seconds to play to give the Bearcats a 2 point lead. Then, UCONN guard Jalen Adams threw a wild layup high off the window and in with 6 seconds to go. Caupain had another crack at a game winner, but his shot bounced off the back iron and fell harmlessly to the floor to force a third overtime period.
The third overtime will be the one that people talks about for a long time, the one you’ll surely see on SportsCenter. It first seemed as though the heroics of Cincinnati junior guard Kevin Johnson. Johnson, who had scored just one point the rest of the game, knocked down 2 HUGE 3’s in the final 1:17 seconds, including what appeared to be the game winner with just 0.8 seconds remaining. However, the Huskies threw the ball in quickly to the fearless freshman Adams, who sent the entire viewing audience into a mix of shock and jubilation by sinking a 3/4 court shot as the buzzer sounded. After review, the referees upheld the bucket to send the game to a 4th overtime.
Shots like that one by Adams are what make March Madness unlike any other time of year. UCONN coach Kevin Ollie, when asked about the shot by Adams, said “That’s legendary stuff. That shot’s gonna be talked about for a long time.”
The Huskies seized all the momentum after Adams’s rediculous shot, as they controlled the 4th overtime from the get-go. Adams and Hamilton dominated the period, making big shots and knocking down clutch free throws. The Bearcats received no real offensive contributions from anyone other than Caupain.
The Huskies survive to earn a huge semifinal matchup with top-seeded Temple tomorrow. While not a lock by any means, the win by the Huskies is a huge step in reaching the NCAA Tournament. The Bearcats are also on the bubble, but Still have a good enough resumé that they should reach the Big Dance.