ARIZONA – The UConn men’s basketball team moves ahead with their defeat of Purdue, 72-60 on Thursday [March 26], in the NCAA West Regional semifinals.
The Huskies will play the winner of the semi-final between Memphis and Missouri.
This is the fourth time since 2002 that the men’s team has reached the regional finals.
A.J. Price: “We came out here and played as hard as we can and we played a great team today. I really do believe that. They are a very tough team. They wouldn’t go away by any stretch of the imagination.”
“We tried to put them away three, four, five different times and every time, they came back. But we stayed with it and we were able to keep that lead. We prevailed today.”
UConn started with an early 11-point lead, and then the defense-oriented Boilermakers made things tough. The Huskies shot only 39.4 percent from the floor, but led by five points at intermission.
The Boilermakers trailed 30-25 at halftime.
Game picks up in second half
Hasheem Thabeet scored UConn’s first 8 points of the second half, and then blocked a shot to set up a fast break lay up by A.J. Price, who scored 10 of his 15 points after halftime.
The Boilermakers answered with a 7-0 burst, and pulled within 44-40 with 11:24 to play.
Thabeet dunked to push the lead back to 57-45 with 6:28 to play, and that was pretty much it for Purdue.
Craig Austrie added 17 points, and Stanley Robinson had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Huskies.
UConn out-rebounded Purdue 48-33.
With this game, Purdue ended its longest NCAA run since 2000 when the Boilermakers lost to Wisconsin in the West Region final. “We did accomplish a lot this season,” said Robbie Hummel, who led Purdue with 17 points. “We’ve been in the Sweet 16 now. We’re going to be hungry to make it farther next year.”
Coach Jim Calhoun sums it up
“I thought A.J. Stanley, once again, has evolved into that role as our third scorer and rebounder. And the job he did on Hummel, who I have incredible respect for, what an incredible player he is. In the first half, he lit us up big time. In the second half, I believe we held him to two points, a lay up late. Just a magnificent defensive job.”
“I thought they did a great job on A.J. Price. They doubled the ball all the time. They did a terrific, terrific job of jumping on him. And he fought his way through it and made some big key hoops when they kept threatening down the stretch.”
“We were then able to use the clock, dominate on the backboard and, once again, allow Hasheem [Thabeet] to really control – in my opinion – the second half of the game.”
“But the good sign – and I know this time of year it is getting to be a shot season – but nevertheless, that Craig steps up when Jeff doesn’t have a good game, when Stanley steps up, when other people can do the job… obviously, I told them all we’re playing for, fellows is to play Saturday. That’s all we’re playing for… And the kids came through great. I couldn’t be prouder and happier for them.”
For more on the game, go to www.uconnhuskies.com and check out their very cool newly designed Web site.
Posted March 26, 2009
[As edited/ rewritten by Brenda Sullivan]