No. 15 Connecticut 83, Georgetown 64
STORRS, Conn. (AP)—Moments after Connecticut beat Georgetown 83-64 on Wednesday night, Huskies coach Jim Calhoun walked the length of the court and gave a thumbs up to the packed student section at Gampel Pavilion.
They roared back. The feeling was definitely mutual.
In Storrs, they’re crazy about the man who turned a decent regional program into a national power over the past 19 years. He’s given them two NCAA titles and on Wednesday, they had something else to celebrate—his 700th win.
“This is a very special night for Connecticut. It’s a special night for me and its a very special night for our players,” Calhoun said. “A coach is only a reflection of so many assistants and great players.”
Some of his former players who are now NBA stars—Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton and Emeka Okafor—congratulated Calhoun in a video tribute after the win.
His current players did their part, too.
Charlie Villanueva scored 24 points and freshman Rudy Gay added a career-high 20 to lead the 15th-ranked Huskies over Georgetown.
Calhoun became one of seven active Division I coaches with 700 wins. The sellout crowd of 10,167 stood for the closing seconds, chanting “700” and wildly waving placards printed with the number. The win also moved UConn into a first-place tie with Boston College in the Big East.
“We were definitely focused and pumped up for this game,” Villanueva said. “We wanted to do this for Coach and we did.”
The Huskies (20-6, 12-3) made sure they put this one away early, well ahead of the celebration. The Huskies have been one of the hottest teams in the conference down the stretch, winning their last eight Big East games.
The streak is due in large part to the emergence of point guard Marcus Williams, who leads the league in assists. He finished with 11 points and eight assists Wednesday.
“He makes us go,” Calhoun said of Williams. “He throws passes that most kids can’t see. He makes everybody’s jobs so much easier.”
The Hoyas (16-10, 8-7) continued their slide, losing their fourth straight. Freshman Jeff Green led Georgetown with 17 points and helped get the Hoyas out to a quick start.
Green opened the game with a 3-pointer as the Hoyas hit their first three shots from beyond the arc and played the Huskies close for several minutes. The Hoyas’ biggest lead was 19-15 with 12:10 left, but it didn’t last long.
The Huskies blew open the game with a stifling press and 20-3 run that started with a driving layup by Williams.
He also assisted on a couple of spectacular dunks by Villanueva and Gay. But what brought the fans to their feet was Williams’ steal and over-the head half-court pass to Gay who was fouled as he went in for the dunk. Gay hit both shots to cap the run and give UConn a 39-24 lead. Gay’s fallaway at the buzzer put UConn up 41-26 at halftime.
“That last little stretch was a killer,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “We were in the game and then we were out of the game. (The Huskies) are playing their best game right now.”
Georgetown would get no closer than 14 points the rest of the way and the Huskies’ ever-intense coach made sure his team played hard until the end. He angrily flung his sport coat in the middle of an 11-2 Georgetown run early in the second half and called a timeout. The Huskies quickly regrouped and the rout was on.
His players are used to his intensity, especially when it gets results.
“Everything he does he wants you to be as successful as you can be,” Williams said. “His expectations are high because he knows you can achieve. It’s an honor to be here with Coach.”
Calhoun, 62, is in his 33rd year as a head coach, spending his first 14 at Northeastern. The Boston-area native rolled up 248 wins at Northeastern and 452 in his 19 years at UConn, transforming a decent regional program into a national power. He has led UConn to the two national championships (1999 and 2004), 14 Big East titles and an NIT championship.
Big East rival Jim Boeheim of Syracuse picked up his 700th victory on Saturday. The two square off this Saturday in Storrs for in the regular season finale.
Boehiem also was part of the video tribute and welcomed Calhoun into the 700 club.
“It means we’re either getting older or getting better,” Boeheim said. “Let’s just hope we’re getting better. We’ll see you Saturday.”