Okafor, the nation's leading shot blocker, lived up to the
billing, blocking shots by Foye at the end of regulation and again
at the end of overtime to lead No. 8 Connecticut over Villanova
75-74 on Saturday.
"Nobody in the country can change a game like that," Huskies
coach Jim Calhoun said of Okafor, who played through back spasms.
"He showed why he's the best defensive player in the country.
Emeka Okafor comes along once in a lifetime."
Gordon had 21 points and Okafor added 17 for the Huskies (23-5,
11-3 Big East), who have won four straight since consecutive losses
to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh dropped them from No. 5 to eighth.
Connecticut has been ranked No. 1 a season-high eight weeks this
"That was the best block I ever saw," Gordon said of Okafor's
Okafor knew he had to stop Foye once teammate Taliek Brown was
picked off the play.
"I tried to anticipate it, but my foot slipped and I just got
my hand on it," Okafor said.
"If he was hurt, I didn't know it," Villanova coach Jay Wright
said of Okafor. "He played a great game."
Connecticut's Rashad Anderson tied it at 66 on a 3-pointer from
the right wing with 7 seconds left in regulation. Okafor then
blocked Foye's driving layup just before the buzzer, sending it to
Gordon had just 18 points in his last two games, prompting
Calhoun to tell him to shoot more. In the final seconds,
Connecticut made sure to put the ball in Gordon's hands. He drove
to the basket, but missed a layup over two defenders. Boone got the
rebound and put it in for the lead.
"This was a heart-check game. We gutted it out," Boone said.
Villanova hasn't beaten a ranked opponent since a 79-70 victory
over Connecticut last season in Philadelphia. The Huskies came into
that game ranked 23rd.
Sumpter's turnaround bank shot gave Villanova a 74-73 lead with
19 seconds left in overtime.
The Huskies took their first lead since the opening minutes of
the second half when Okafor's dunk made it 69-68 with 2:46 left in
Connecticut could have put the game away, but missed four free
throws in the overtime.
Calhoun, however, was pleased his players displayed their
emotions during the game. At one point, Brown grabbed Hilton
Armstrong by the jersey during a timeout and yelled at him.
"We're making progress," Calhoun joked.
Said Brown: "Coach loves that."
The Wildcats took their biggest lead, 57-49, following an 8-2
run that began with a layup by Foye. After Connecticut scored seven
of the next nine points, Derrick Snowden hit a 3-pointer to put
Villanova ahead 62-56.
Gordon hit a 3-pointer to get the Huskies within one point with
1:49 left in the second half. But Foye answered with a putback to
make it 64-61. After a layup by Boone off a crisp pass by Gordon,
Ray made a driving layup just before the shot clock expired for a
66-63 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
The Huskies scored five straight points in the final minutes of
the first half, taking a 36-35 lead on a layup by Brown off a
spectacular, twisting catch-and-pass from Gordon. A free throw by
Chris Charles tied it at 36 at halftime.
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Sources tell ESPN's Jeff Goodman that the South Florida men's basketball program is under NCAA investigation for possible academic fraud issues.