7:30 PM ET, January 6, 2004
Louis Brown Athletic Center, Piscataway, New Jersey
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) -- Connecticut left the Rutgers Athletic Center with its No. 1 ranking intact, barely.Playing with four fouls, Ben Gordon scored eight of his 22 points over the final 4½ minutes and the Huskies hung on to beat the Scarlet Knights 75-74 Tuesday night."This wasn't luck," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "It would have been a lot different with one more play by them or one less play by us. We're pretty good and Rutgers gave us everything we could handle."The Huskies (12-1, 1-0 Big East) won their ninth straight game despite the far-from-dominating performance. Rutgers (7-4, 0-2) was impressive on the offensive boards in the first half, wasn't rattled by Connecticut's tough inside defense and led 65-63 with 4:43 to go on a basket by Herve Lamizana."This was a devastating loss," Rutgers coach Gary Waters said. "They didn't deserve to win here tonight."Gordon, who picked up his fourth foul with 7:30 to play, hit a 3-pointer to give the Huskies the lead for good at 66-65. He added two free throws with 4:09 left and jumper down low with 3:35 to play to cap his personal 7-0 run and give Connecticut a five-point lead.Calhoun called a timeout to get Gordon back in the game."I thought we were going down at that point and we needed to get the momentum and get it to six or eight and he did that," Calhoun said. "I expected us to take the lead and we did, but Rutgers was terrific."A driving jumper by Charlie Villanueva with 2:20 left gave Connecticut a 72-66 lead, but the Scarlet Knights were far from done.Quincy Douby's drive with 18 seconds left -- Rutgers' first field goal in 4:25 -- made it 74-72. Freshman Marcus Williams made the second of two free throws with 16 seconds to go - his only point of the game -- and Connecticut had a three-point lead.Rutgers called a timeout with 10 seconds left, then a poor inbounds pass caused a scramble near midcourt that turned into Gordon's fifth foul.Ricky Shields made two free throws with 7 seconds left and when Connecticut inbounded the ball three players were able to touch it without being fouled and the clock ran out."You don't want to know," Waters said, burying his face in his hands. "We just talked to them about face-guarding and that we should let number 12 (Taliek Brown) catch it and foul him. He caught it and the guy covering him backed up so we got nothing out of it."Douby was the player who should have fouled Brown."I just felt like everything just crumbled," Douby said.Emeka Okafor had 21 points, 16 rebounds and six blocked shots for Connecticut, while Villanueva had 15 points and 12 rebounds."We keep taking Emeka for granted," Calhoun said. "But Gordon played great defense and he made some big shots and big plays."Gordon said he was just trying to get the team going."My teammates definitely look toward me to make big plays when we're down where everybody is kind of out of the game," he said. "They look toward me so I just kind of take that seriously. I know that I have that burden."Lamizana had 20 points and Shields added 19 for Rutgers, which was outrebounded 53-40 overall but had a 20-17 advantage on the offensive end, 15-7 in the first half."We had them on the ropes," Lamizana said. "Just one little mistake we made. All we can do about it is learn and move on."Shields was 4-of-11 from 3-point range and Douby, who had 13 points, was 3-for-6 as the Scarlet Knights went 10-for-27 from beyond the arc."We wanted to make it a possession by possession game and they wanted to run and we did a good job of that," Waters said. "We executed some things and others we didn't."Both teams struggled from the free throw line. Okafor was 3-of-11 as the Huskies went 13-of-27 and the Scarlet Knights were 16-for-26."I don't know, I was just missing," said Okafor, who entered the game shooting 58 percent from the line (39-for-67). "We were able to dig down deep and just take care of business."Rutgers, which beat Connecticut in this building in January 2002, is now 0-6 against top-ranked teams. The Huskies were the first No. 1 team to play in Rutgers Athletic Center.
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