UConn Quotes Follow Story
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (March 19, 2006) -- Sophomore All-America Rudy Gay (Baltimore, Md.) scored 19 points and sealed the game with two free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining as top-seeded Connecticut defeated eighth-seeded Kentucky, 87-83, to advance to the Sweet 16 round of the Washington Regional of the 2006 NCAA Championship.
The win improves the UConn record to 29-3, and the Huskies advance to play fifth-seeded Washington on Friday evening at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. Game time will be approximately 10:00 p.m. following the other regional semifinal between No. 7 seed Wichita State and No. 11 seed George Mason -- which will start at 7:25 p.m.
Gay and junior point guard Marcus Williams (Los Angeles, Calif.) were the catalysts as the Huskies held off a late Kentucky rally. UConn led 81-74 with 1:50 to play after freshman Craig Austrie (Stamford, Conn.) drove through the Wildcat press for a lay-up. Patrick Sparks, who was outstanding all game for Kentucky, finishing with 19 of his 28 points after intermission, drilled a three-pointer to bring Kentucky to within four. After a UConn shot clock violation, Sheray Thomas made a lay-up to bring the Wildcats within a bucket at 81-79 with 52.5 seconds to play. Williams made both free throws after two Kentucky fouls, sandwiched around a Bobby Perry follow to put UConn ahead 83-79, with 29.4 to play. Perry had another follow hoop, but Gay secured the win with his two charity tosses.
Williams led the Huskies with 20 points and eight assists, tallying 16 points in the second half. He made eight of nine free throws, and continued his streak this season of not having a game with less than five assists. Gay finished with 19 points and added four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Three other Huskies scored in double figures as senior Rashad Anderson (Lakeland, Fla.) scored 14 points (all in a frenzied ten-minute stretch of the first half), as did senior Denham Brown (Toronto, Ont.). Senior center Hilton Armstrong (Peekskill, N.Y.) had 10 points and tied with Williams for team-high rebounding honors with four.
UConn got solid contributions from several bench players as freshman forward Jeff Adrien (Brookline, Mass.) had seven points, while Austrie made the huge late hoop for the Huskies. Senior power forward Ed Nelson (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) gave the Huskies 12 solid minutes off of the bench.
Connecticut shot an even 50% (31 of 62) and made 21 of 30 free throws, while limiting Kentucky to 47% shooting.
Kentucky started the second half with a flourish, scoring the first seven points of the half to cut the UConn lead to 43-38 with 18:42 to play. The Huskies immediately responded with a 7-2 spurt to get the lead back to ten, 50-40, with 17:08 to go. The lead was back at 13 points, 58-45, with 13:37 to go after a Armstrong jumper, but again the Wildcats would respond. Kentucky scored the next six points, capped by a Sparks lay-up, to make the score 58-51 with 11:16 left in the game.
UConn led by 13 points on four different occasions in the first half before settling for a 43-31 lead at the intermission. The Huskies used a 17-4 run to break an 8-8 tie and forge a 25-12 lead with 10:21 left in the half. Anderson was the key to the Husky run, hitting four three-pointers in a span of just over five minutes of play. He finished with 14 points in the half after going scoreless in the first round win over Albany. UConn overcame foul trouble to both big men and held Kentucky to 37.5% from the field, while shooting 51.5% from the field and turning it over only six times in the stanza.
The Wildcats twice cut the deficit to six points late in the half, the last time on a Sparks three with 2:55 to go before the break that made the score 35-29 in favor of UConn. The Huskies responded with a 6-0 spurt on two Gay free throws and a pair of buckets by Brown to get the lead back to 12 at 41-29 with just over a minute to play in the half.
March 19, 2006
Kentucky vs. Connecticut
Jim Calhoun, Connecticut coach
"I am so proud of my kids and the way we took every shot that Kentucky gave us. We're trying to earn our ropes as an elite program and we're still trying to do that. This was a tremendous basketball game. Kentucky has been through an incredibly difficult season playing a difficult schedule under incredible pressure. The ups and downs this team has had, I think has forged a very tough basketball team. Those loses gave them the fiber when we got them down eight, nine, 11, whatever it was, to make big plays. But we stood up to it and I couldn't be prouder of our basketball team."
"Tonight, in my opinion, when we got that eight, nine point lead, Tubby picked it up. He started to put a lot more ball pressure on us. They played 2-3 zone probably 60 percent of the game. As they started to fall behind, they started to come out and play their 5-5 defense, which is man-ball pressure as opposed to man and sit inside the three and protect the basket. In doing so, they forced Marcus to have to make plays."
"I personally believe this, and I'll go away thinking this, I've seen Kentucky on tape nine times, and that's the best I've seen them. We did a good job in the second half on Morris and eventually fouled him out. But Sparks and Perry, he's a 6.8 scorer and he should move to Philadelphia right now, he's 25 and 20 the last two games. They were magnificent."
"I told him he had to go out and be much more assertive. He was magnificent. We were in big trouble in the first half with the foul situation. The guys on the beat know they don't usually see Hilton Armstrong come in, but I was getting to the point where I could not lose the gap. Then we came out at the beginning of the second half and lost it right away anyway. But Rudy needs to be more assertive. He's an incredibly talented kid, but he's a young kid. Today he was assertive and made his moves. At times today he was unstoppable. I told him he needed to be assertive or I was going to play Denham or Rashad more."
"I don't find it unusual for Kentucky, with its incredible history and a great coach like Tubby, for that to turn into that kind of game. In this tournament, sometimes you're thrust into a game that evolved entirely different than your game plan. I thought we would eventually take control of the game, and Kentucky kept fighting back. That is not in the game plan. It's credit for Kentucky, not just for UConn. I thought it was a great basketball game."
"I still think we can beat anybody in America and get to Indianapolis. And I still think we can lose to anybody along the way. We got into a situation where we had to make plays and we made plays."
"I thought Kentucky played awfully good. Sparks was magnificent. And the Perry kid was very good. Kentucky played great and Connecticut was pretty good too. That's what the tournament is about. In the Washington region, (seeds) 2,3 and 4 are all gone. That's the kind of thing we all need to be aware of. The whole idea that the 1 gets the easy route, there are no easy routes. The 16s are very good and they have an incredible desire to win. When you get to 8-9, you're facing good teams. And now we go to Washington for the Sweet 16."
March 19, 2006
Kentucky vs. Connecticut
Williams: "We just tried to be patient and stay in the offense and get the ball to the right players at the right time."
Williams: "It's hard sometimes to get over the screens and from where he (Sparks) is shooting from, sometimes it is difficult for the bigs to hedge. He did a great job for them and made some big shots. He was just a good player today."
Williams: "In the NCAA tournament, no team is going to go away easy. Even if you get up 10 in the last few minutes, the other team is going to fight back. Everyone wants to get to the next round. I didn't think it was going to be easy, even when we got up seven points with five or six minutes left. We just needed to stick with our offense and play solid defense."
Gay: "Day by day Hilton (Armstrong) is getting better. I've been here two years and one thing I know is he keeps getting better. He's always had heart. Today the ball bounced his way and he made sure he got it. He made a move and got to the foul line."
Boone: "We had just about everybody step up. Hilton (Armstrong) had a couple of big offensive rebounds. Marcus (Williams) took over the game. We knew it would take everybody to win this game."
Anderson: "As soon as I checked in I felt good. It's a matter of getting open looks off of screens and knocking down open shots."
Anderson: "Marcus (Williams) was phenomenal as a floor guard. He's leading us right now."
Brown: "Coach has been telling us we're the deepest team in the country, and today it showed. Guys off the bench really contributed to this win."
Brown: "Marcus (Williams) is playing with a lot of passion right now."
Brown: "Guys contributed offensively and defensively. Ed (Nelson) got three big offensive rebounds in the first half. Rashad (Anderson) scored 14 points in the first half."