Feb. 26, 2012
By Erika Wentzell
The University of Connecticut hosted a serious party this Saturday night for ESPN’s College GameDay, which rolled into town for a showdown between the Huskies and the Syracuse Orange.
Even though the Huskies lost 71-69 the game certainly lived up to hype. Saying Gampel Pavilion was rocking would be an understatement. Fans had been anticipating this day all season and even more so after a buzzer beater by Shabazz Napier earlier in the week against Villanova restored some life back into UConn Country.
After Saturday night’s game, the consensus from UConn’s players and coach was that they were most disappointed about letting down the fans that were so phenomenal all day and night.
In the first half, the student section showed what they were made of with a perfectly executed flash mob, per the request of ESPN’s Erin Andrews herself.
Despite the powerful crowd the Huskies struggled in the first half both offensively and defensively. The Orange had no trouble capitalizing on the holes in the Huskies defense, at one point they had a stretch of 12 unanswered points.
When halftime rolled around UConn was down by 14 points and the fans knew they needed to get a rally going.
“Everybody showing up and being so great for GameDay and the students spending almost the entire day in the gym as they did it was phenomenal,” said UConn associate head coach George Blaney. “It was something to be really proud of but you need to pay them back for that and we didn’t do that in the first half.”
The Huskies reeled themselves back into the game with 12 minutes left in the second half, as they brought the score to 56-49. When Jeremy Lamb made two free throws with 5:46 to go to bring UConn to within four (63-59) the crowd erupted and the momentum shifted in UConn’s favor.
The Huskies finally found the offensive flair that they lacked in the first half and they were able to tie the game at 63-63 with 4:17 remaining in the game on a tipin by Roscoe Smith. The Huskies started playing with the fervor that made them National Champions last season.
An electrified crowd attempted to carry their boys to victory. When Syracuse called a timeout with 46 seconds left the score was tied at 69-69 and it’s safe to say all of Storrs and all of Syracuse began collectively holding their breath.
With just 13.3 seconds remaining UConn used a time out and took the court to decide the game. A missed jumper Smith sealed the deal and handed Syracuse the win.
“I think we worked hard, we fought, fought, and fought,” says Lamb.
“We had a great crowd behind us but we just couldn’t finish. Nobody can deny that the Huskies put up an enormous fight tonight both on the court and in the stands.”