March 26, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) - For all of its NBA-ready talent, all of its basketball pedigree, No. 1-seeded Connecticut never put together a complete game in the NCAA tournament.
Now, upset of upsets, UConn is heading home, and 11th-seeded George Mason is heading to Indianapolis for its first Final Four.
Hurt by the kind of lapses it had through its first three games at the Big Dance, two-time national champion Connecticut wasted a lead and a significant height advantage en route to a stunning 86-84 loss to George Mason in overtime at the Washington Regional final Sunday.
So while the Patriots are the first No. 11 seed to reach the national semifinals since LSU in 1986, the Huskies will have a longer offseason than they ever would have expected.
This is, after all, a UConn team that was one of only two schools to be ranked No. 1 in the AP poll this season. A team that has three or four players sure to be headed to the pros. A team that starts three players 6-foot-9 or taller, and can bring waves of big men in as reserves. George Mason, by contrast, has no one on the roster bigger than 6-8 - and yet outrebounded Connecticut 37-34.
While the Patriots jumped on the scorer's table in celebration, UConn's players were slumped over, some with hands on knees, others sitting on the court.
Hard to believe? Definitely.
Somehow, UConn played like the less experienced team down the stretch, similar to its problems over the past few weeks. Dating to their loss in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, the Huskies haven't managed to play well for the full 40 minutes of regulation against anyone.
Rudy Gay scored 20 points, Jeff Adrien had a career-high 17, and Marcus Williams had 11 assists.
One key stat: In overtime, UConn went 2-for-8 from the field, while Mason was 5-for-6. But the problems started much earlier for the Huskies, who led by 12 in the first half.
Josh Boone went to the line with 2:11 left in regulation and a chance to tie it for UConn, but he missed both shots badly. On George Mason's next possession, Gay fouled Folarin Campbell with 1 second on the shot clock. Then Williams was called for palming. He then threw a pass that Adrien couldn't handle for another turnover.
Showing their talent, the Huskies did force overtime on Denham Brown's reverse layup at the buzzer. But Brown was whistled for traveling the first time UConn had the ball in the extra session, and it went downhill from there.
It's been that way all tournament for UConn.
The Huskies were down 12 with 11 1/2 minutes to go against No. 16 seed Albany in the first round, before pulling it out. They edged eighth-seeded Kentucky in the second round. They were down six with 3 minutes to go against fifth-seeded Washington in the regional semifinals, then needed Rashad Anderson's 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left to bail them out and force overtime.
No one could bail them out this time. Brown tried with one last 3-point attempt, but it was off the mark as the horn sounded.