Texas Defeats Connecticut 82-78
SAN ANTONIO (AP) _ Texas was in trouble. T.J. Ford was on the bench and the Longhorns’ lead had slipped away.
No matter, the little guy was there at the end and top-seeded Texas is on to the South Regional final after an 82-78 win over Connecticut on Friday night.
Brian Boddicker also made a big play, blocking Marcus White’s layup attempt that would have tied it with 35 seconds left. The ball got wedged between the rim and the backboard, and the possession arrow went Texas’ way.
So did the rest of the game.
Texas had watched a 14-point second-half lead evaporate, with UConn taking the lead with just over five minutes left.
Ford, the Longhorns’ stellar point guard, returned with four fouls and once again worked his magic, assisting on the final plays down the stretch that made the difference.
Ford’s two free throws with 11.8 seconds left provided the final points and he stripped Emeka Okafor at the other end before sprinting up court as the final seconds ticked off.
Brandon Mouton scored a career-high 27 points and Ford had 13 points and nine assists for the Longhorns (25-6).
Okafor had 21 points and 17 rebounds for UConn (23-10).
Texas advanced to the round of the eight for the first time since 1990. All four top seeds are in the regional finals.
Texas had taken the game’s biggest lead at 62-48 behind a 3-pointer and a baseline jumper by Mouton. UConn immediately responded with an 8-0 run that cut it to 62-56 and sent Ford to the bench with his fourth foul with 10:30 left to play.
After a timeout, Texas committed a turnover, Ben Gordon hit a 3-pointer and two free throws by Okafor cut it to 64-61.
Mouton hit a 3-pointer to temporarily stem the rally before the Huskies cut it to 67-65 on four straight free throws.
But the Texas offense disintegrated with Ford on the bench for five minutes.
Taliek Brown finished a fast break with a layup to tie it at 71 and Ben Gordon swished a 3-pointer from the left wing for the Huskies’ first lead of the half at 74-71.
Ford returned with 5:31 to play and Texas tied it with three free throws from Royal Ivey and Boddicker.
Texas took the lead when Ford found Mouton for a short jumper in the lane and Okafor answered on the other end. Ford then set up James Thomas under the basket who drew a foul and hit both free throws for a 78-76 lead.
Boddicker’s block gave the ball back to the Longhorns, and Ivey hit a pair of free throws. After a dunk by Okafor cut it to two, Ford hit his last two free throws to seal it.
Texas stopped the Huskies from reaching a regional final for the second straight year.
Much had been made of Texas playing just about 80 miles from their campus in Austin, and Longhorns fans filled the Alamodome with cheers of ``Texas Fight!″ more than an hour before tipoff.
UConn was greeted with smattering of boos when it hit the floor for warmups.
Neither team looked comfortable in the cavernous arena. The Longhorns shot just 35 percent but made up for it with 29-for-36 shooting from the foul line, including going 6-of-6 down the stretch.
Mouton was 10-of-18 from the floor, including 4-of-7 on 3-pointers.
Thomas missed all six of his shots from the field in the first half. He finished with 13 points with 9-of-13 foul shooting and nearly matched Okafor with 15 rebounds.