Christian Vital made two free throws with 2.2 seconds to play to give Connecticut of the American Athletic Conference a 52-50 victory over Syracuse of the Atlantic Coast Conference in the Tire Pro Classic.
Andrew White III hit a 3-pointer with 9.1 seconds left to bring Syracuse into a 50-50 tie. Rodney Purvis missed a 3-point attempt for the Huskies but Vital was fouled on the rebound. Syracuse's final chance was a long inbounds pass that was stolen by Connecticut.
Vital, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard, said he knew Purvis was going to shoot so he just went to get position among bigger players underneath.
''I definitely had a lot of nerves going to the line but the timeout they called helped me out a lot,'' Vital said. ''A lot of our veteran guys talked to me during the timeout and they said `Listen, we're in your city. Take us home.' And I was able to do that.''
Purvis had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies (4-4) while Jalen Adams had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Kentan Facey, who coach Kevin Ollie said has been battling a stomach virus, had a career-high 13 rebounds.
''This is definitely a huge win for us,'' Purvis said. ''We had some early season struggles but to come together tonight in this atmosphere, in this historic place. It was huge for us to come out with the win.'''
White finished with 14 points for the Orange (5-3), who have lost three of four. Dajuan Coleman had 10 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for Syracuse.
''I think the three games that we just played, two and a half of them the offense just wasn't good enough to win,'' Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ''Defense was pretty good tonight. We did a good job on the boards. We just could not score any points.''
Neither team shot well and that made a lot of rebounds available as both teams finished with 42.
Connecticut finished 16 of 51 from the field (31.4 percent) while the Orange shot 25.9 percent (14 for 54). Syracuse was 6 of 26 from 3-point range and the Huskies were 7 of 25.
''Once again it wasn't the most beautiful basketball game from an offensive standpoint but I thought the defense was great,'' Ollie said. ''Some new growth was made today.''
Syracuse led 23-21 at halftime. The Orange used an 11-2 run to go up 37-26 with 13:11 to play. The Huskies finally started hitting some shots and they used a 19-7 run to take a 45-44 lead with 6:19 to play. Connecticut led the rest of the way except for the 50-50 tie.
''What we need to think about is our offense,'' Boeheim said, ''We have to get better there.''
These teams had met at Madison Square Garden many times when they both were in the Big East. The greatest of all their matchups was the 2009 Big East Tournament quarterfinal that Syracuse won 127-117 in six overtimes. Syracuse leads the all-time series 55-38.
''We were thirsty for this opportunity and we were hungry to hit and the guys really hit and fought tonight and I was very proud of them,'' Ollie said.
UConn: This was UConn's 115th game at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies entered this game 61-53.
These schools will meet again at Madison Square Garden next December in the 2017 Jimmy V Classic. Villanova and Gonzaga will also meet in one-night event.
LOT OF FANS
The crowd was listed as 15,347 and they made it sound like an old-time Syracuse-UConn matchup.
UConn: The Huskies will make their first trip to Columbus, Ohio, in 33 years to face the Buckeyes on Saturday.