UConn at Madison Square Garden: 10 memorable games
Updated 5:18 pm, Friday, March 28, 2014
A look at 10 memorable appearances by the UConn Huskies at Madison Square Garden. The No. 7-seeded Huskies, who won seven Big East tournament titles in New York, play No. 3 Iowa State in the East Regional semifinals at 7:27 Friday night (TBS) at MSG.
1. UConn 78, Syracuse 75, March 11, 1990: Nobody forgets the first championship and the Huskies certainly won't after winning in their first appearance in the final, which came in coach Jim Calhoun's fourth season. Sophomore Chris Smith, out of Kolbe Cathedral, was named MVP following a 20-point game. Tate George made six straight free throws in the final 29 seconds and finished with 22 points.
2. UConn 75, Georgetown 74, March 9, 1996: The Hoyas led 74-63 with under five minutes remaining, but Ray Allen (17 points/12 rebounds) and the Huskies would score the final 12 points to earn the school's second Big East tourney title. Allen's awkward, off-balance game-winner dropped with 13.6 seconds left to complete the rally and stun Allen Iverson and Georgetown. Junior Kirk King poured in 20 points and freshman Ricky Moore scored 14.
3. UConn 69, Syracuse 64, March 7, 1998: The Huskies endured their own offensive issues on the way to a third conference crown. But Rashamel Jones had 17 points and UConn held SU without a field goal in the final 8:28 to rally from an eight-point hole using a 19-3 run. Freshman Khalid El-Amin added 12 points and was named the tournament MVP.
4. UConn 82, St. John's 63, March 6, 1999: The Huskies got a strong push into the NCAAs, which would end with their first national title, by crushing the Johnnies on the St. John's home floor in front of a sold-out crowd for their fourth conference crown. Richard Hamilton was 8-for-11 from the field en route to 23 points, seven rebounds and three steals, while El-Amin chipped in with 15 points and five assists. It would be UConn's third Big East crown in four years and cap a stretch of six straight conference tourney wins.
5. UConn 74, Pittsburgh 65 (2 OT), March 9, 2002: The first of three straight MSG championship battles between the schools resulted in a fifth championship. Tourney MVP Caron Butler (23 points) helped get the job done, scoring on a turnaround jumper with 1:59 to play to give UConn the lead for good at 66-64. Talik Brown's 30-foot heave with the shot clock winding down helped extend it to 69-64. Brown had 13 points and Ben Gordon 11.
6. UConn 61, Pittsburgh 58, March 13, 2004: Ben "Madison Square Gordon" capped off a special tournament by hitting a game-winning basket on a jumper with 30 seconds left for UConn's sixth title. The Huskies got to the final game despite Emeka Okafor missing two games with back spasms. Gordon scored a then-tournament record 81 points, including 23 in the title game, to break former Georgetown star Allen Iverson's mark (79). "Big-time players do it in the big games and he did," Calhoun said of Gordon. Okafor had 11 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots vs. Pitt.
7. Syracuse 127, UConn 117 (6 OTs), March 12, 2009: At the end of the game, all Calhoun could focus on at the time was the "L" attached to the Huskies for losing this epic Big East tournament battle that spanned 3 hours, 46 minutes and didn't end until Friday morning. The two schools combined for 142 points in regulation, and then another 102 in six OTs, with six players fouling out. A.J. Price had 33 points and 10 assists in defeat and Stanley Robinson added 28 while being one of three Huskies with 14 rebounds. "It's a loss. There was something historic about the game, certainly," Calhoun said. Johnny Flynn led SU with 34 points.
8. UConn 76, Pittsburgh 74, March 9, 2011: Kemba Walker left the huddle with two options, pass or shoot. He went with the latter, swishing the game-winning basket at the buzzer to send the Huskies off to the semifinal round. Walker scored 24 -- his third straight 20-point-plus game -- and Alex Oriakhi added 13, including two on a putback after a Walker miss with a little over a minute to play.
9. UConn 69, Louisville 66, March 11, 2011: Five nights, five wins. At the end, even Walker admitted to being a little tired, but said "I just wanted to win this game so bad my heart took over." Walker scored 19 of his tournament-record 130 points against the Cardinals to help ninth-seeded UConn claim its seventh -- and final -- Big East tournament crown. Walker fed Jeremy Lamb for a basket to give UConn the lead for good, 65-64, with 33 seconds left.
10. St. John's 71, UConn 65, Feb. 6, 2013: The Huskies played in much larger games at the Garden, but this one marked the last time they would compete there as a member of the Big East since they were not eligible for postseason play. Shabazz Napier helped spearhead a 15-1 second-half run, but the Red Storm responded in the final 4:30 after falling behind 53-51. JaKarr Sampson had 18 points to lead the Johnnies, while Omar Calhoun scored 21 for UConn.
-- WILLIAM S. PAXTON