Final - OT
  for this game

UConn survives loss of Thabeet, knocks off Gonzaga in OT

Dec 21, 2008 - 6:21 AM SEATTLE (Ticker) -- This time, it was Connecticut that survived overtime against a West Coast Conference team.

Jerome Dyson scored six of his 21 points the extra session as second-ranked Connecticut overcame the loss of Hasheem Thabeet for an 88-83 victory over No. 7 Gonzaga at Key Arena on Saturday.

A.J. Price led the Huskies (10-0) with 24 points, including a 3-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation that knotted the contest at 74-74.

Craig Austrie was off the mark on a 3-pointer moments before Price's, but Jeff Adrien was able to track down his third offensive rebound for Connecticut.

"We lost a tough, tough, tough game to a heck of a basketball team," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We needed one rebound there and a stop. We got the stop but we just didn't get the rebound.

"Price hit a heck of a shot, a contested (shot). That is what big-time players do."

Dyson later added another big basket from long range, giving Connecticut an insurmountable 84-77 lead with 1:39 left in overtime.

In a game that had a March-like atmosphere, the Huskies showed that they were worthy of their lofty ranking, overcoming some adversity with the foul-plagued Hasheem Thabeet and an 11-point deficit midway through the second half.

"That's what these games teach you," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "That you are going to be in tough situations on this neutral floor. You've got to learn how to play."

That was not the case in March, when Connecticut was shocked in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by 13th-seeded San Diego - one of the teams that will be challenging Gonzaga for the WCC title this season.

Price also came up with a key strip late, knocking the ball away from Jeremy Pargo as he drove the lane in the closing moments, and regulation ended up with Connecticut and Gonzaga players on the floor for a loose ball.

Price also had a career-high 10 assists.

The Huskies struck the first blow in overtime, as Thabeet dunked on a feed off a drive by Price. The 7-3 center was then whistled for a technical foul, saying something to Josh Heytvelt heading down the court. That was the fifth foul for Thabeet, who was forced to the bench for most of the second half with foul issues.

Steven Gray could only split the two technical fouls and Micah Downs missed a 3-pointer before UConn's Gavin Edwards sank a layup in transition for a 78-75 edge with 4:11 left.

Pargo came back with a layup for the Bulldogs, but the 78-77 deficit would be the closest that they would get as they struggled offensively in the extra session, making just 3-of-10 shots.

Dyson made a pair of free throws with 2:43 remaining, and knocked down a shot from the arc more than a minute later for an 84-77 advantage.

Gray scored a career-high 23 points to lead Gonzaga (8-2), which had three starters foul out - including Austin Daye - in losing for the second time in three games.

"Steven is so capable of that," Few said of Gray, who shot 10-of-16 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds. "That's what he does. We have all been looking for him to bust out. He's slowly getting back into form after a slow start."

Despite appearing without a plan offensively in OT, the Bulldogs finished 50 percent (32-of-64) from the field. That is something that is usually not done against Calhoun's Huskies.

"I came in saying that Gonzaga might be as good an offensive team as there was in the country," Calhoun said. "Nothing that happened out there proved me wrong.

"They did a great job - although he did not have a good game - of getting Thabeet out of the middle. They did a great job of getting down the middle to shoot 50 percent. It is only like the second time in 50 games that a team shot like us against us."

The Bulldogs appeared in great shape for another win over the Huskies for the second straight year after Thabeet was whistled for his third foul rotating over on defense just over a minutes into the second half.

Trailing 40-39 at that point, Gonzaga took advantage of the shot-blocker going to the bench, going on an 18-6 run over the next seven minutes. Gray had two driving layups during the spurt, showing no problem attacking the lane with Thabeet on the bench.

Thabeet did return for for one point during the Bulldogs' run, picking up his fourth personal on a charge with 12:12 to play.

Yet, Price led UConn right back, hitting two 3-pointers on a 12-4 run that slice the deficit down to 61-58 with 8:10 remaining.

Daye, who had 13 points, later hit a turnaround jumper in the lane, giving Gonzaga a 67-62 advantage with 5:50 left.

Thabeet came back into the game 12 seconds later, but saw Daye hit a bank shot over him with 2:10 remaining for a 72-68 lead.

"That's kind of what Austin (Daye) can do," Few said. "We were trying to get him isolated there especially with Thabeet. We thought we had a good matchup there, and took advantage of it on several occasions.

"I wish we could have had him at the end of the game. It was a big play when he got that last foul."

Adrien sank two free throws with 1:44 left and Price split a pair 70 seconds later to close the Huskies within 72-71.

Matt Bouldin converted two from the stripe for the Bulldogs with 25 seconds to play, setting up the heroics of Price, who finished 6-of-9 from the arc.

"He went 6-of-9 from three," Few said of Price. "We hadn't seen that. He stepped up and hit it when nobody looked like they were going to hit them."

With Thabeet limited, reserve junior Edwards stepped up, finishing with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Seven of those boards were on the offensive end.

Pargo had 16 points and Heytvelt 15 for Gonzaga, but the duo managed just a combined six points in overtime.