UMass Upsets No. 7 UConn, 61-59
Dec. 9, 2004
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
AMHERST, Mass. (AP) - Massachusetts made sure its first home game against a defending national champion was one to remember.
The Minutemen stunned seventh-ranked Connecticut 61-59 on Rashaun Freeman's layup with 4.3 seconds to play Thursday night. Many of the 9,037 fans stormed the court at Mullins Center after the final buzzer. It was the largest crowd in Amherst in four years.
"I felt like we won the national championship! I never saw a crowd like that around here," UMass guard Anthony Anderson said. "We've been saying that this was our year. Maybe we showed it tonight."
Freeman, who led UMass with 18 points and eight rebounds, came up big time and again for the Minutemen (3-2), who beat the Huskies for the first time in 14 meetings.
The Huskies (4-1) ran into a hostile environment on their first road trip of the season.
Freeman and his teammates outhustled the Huskies from the opening tip and got the best of UConn's frontcourt, which had been outrebounding opponents by 25 boards a game. The teams finished even with 39 rebounds each, but UMass had a slight edge on the glass in the first half and outscored Connecticut 42-24 in the paint for the game.
"I told them at halftime we outrebounded UConn. That's unbelievable," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "I also told them that we outscored them for a half, that's also unbelievable. Now the big challenge - we've got to win the second half."
The Huskies came back from a 12-point, first-half deficit and held a tenuous five-point lead late in the game.
But Freeman hit consecutive baskets with under four minutes left, pulling the Minutemen within 55-54.
Turnovers doomed the Huskies down the stretch. Antonio Kellogg dribbled the ball off his foot, and the Minutemen made him pay. Jeff Viggiano hit a 3-pointer with 55.2 seconds left to give UMass a 57-55 lead.
"It had to be my best basket at UMass," Viggiano said. "It helps when your teammates get behind you."
After UConn's Rudy Gay hit a pair of free throws to tie on the next possession, the Minutemen raced upcourt on the inbounds play and Art Bowers hit Freeman in full stride for the winner. For Freeman, the buzzer came just in time.
"I had leg cramps at the end," Freeman said. "I really didn't want to go into overtime."
It was UConn coach Jim Calhoun's first loss to UMass in his 19 years with the Huskies.
"They outworked us, outhustled us and we never really responded," Calhoun said. "I couldn't be more disappointed."
Rudy Gay had 13 points for UConn. Josh Boone added 12 and led the Huskies with nine rebounds.
The Minutemen dominated inside early and used a 14-1 run to put the Huskies in an early hole. Stephan Lasme and Freeman combined for eight points in the spurt. Viggiano's putback with 12 minutes remaining capped the run and gave UMass an 18-7 lead, bringing a thunderous roar from the crowd.
Lawrence Carrier hit a 3-pointer with 8:46 remaining to give UMass its largest lead at 25-13.
The Huskies finally got untracked and reeled off a 10-0 run. Gay and Rashad Anderson hit 3-pointers in the outburst.
Gay's two free throws with 2:24 left pulled the Huskies even at 27-all, and after a steal by Marcus Williams, the Huskies briefly grabbed the lead by a basket on Charlie Villanueva's dunk.
The Minutemen closed out the half on Bower's jumper to take a 31-29 lead at the break.
"It was a gutsy win for our kids," Lappas said.