No. 2 UConn Defeats No. 8 Marquette, 93-82
Feb. 25, 2009
MILWAUKEE, Wisc. (AP) - Victory No. 800 reminded Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun of something his father once told him as a boy: You're always going to be judged by the company you keep.
And with the second-ranked Huskies' 93-82 victory over No. 8 Marquette on Wednesday night, Calhoun joined Bob Knight, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Jim Phelan, Mike Krzyzewski and Eddie Sutton as the only coaches to win 800 games in Division I history.
"I looked around at that list, and I'm really happy to be in their company," Calhoun said.
Senior guard A.J. Price scored a career-high 36 points for the Huskies (26-2, 14-2 Big East), who broke Marquette's 17-game home winning streak.
And the Golden Eagles (23-5, 12-3) paid a heavy price in the loss, as senior guard Dominic James broke a bone in his left foot early in the first half. Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams announced after the game that James' college career is over.
"I hugged him before I came in here," Williams said, his voice cracking.
James played only 4 minutes in the first half, and the school announced after halftime that he broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. James, one of the Golden Eagles' trio of standout senior guards, has 1,749 career points and is one of the team's top defensive players.
Maurice Acker picked up the majority of James' minutes running the offense, and the Golden Eagles kept rallying after Connecticut squandered several chances to pull away.
After yet another Marquette rally, Price finally clinched the game by hitting a 3-pointer to put the Huskies ahead by eight points with 1:10 left.
Calhoun said Price's big night reminded him of past Huskies greats such as Ben Gordon, Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton.
"He's seen the best of them," Price said. "He's made pros, and just for him to mention my name in the same sentence as those guys is special. On the other hand I can't enjoy it too much right now because we're in the season. We want to take this team somewhere special, and that's to the Final Four."
Stanley Robinson added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies, who had a pronounced size advantage going into the game but ended up getting the best of Marquette on the perimeter, too.
Calhoun said this Huskies team might not have the big-name players they have in years past, but they're showing signs that they could make a run in the postseason.
"We've had teams that have maybe had more names, in some ways," Calhoun said. "But this team is getting to be pretty good. A performance like tonight gives you a hint that we can really do some special things."
Jerel McNeal scored 26 points for the Golden Eagles, who managed to stay in contention until the final few minutes despite losing James. Williams acknowledged that Marquette is a "different team" with James at the point, but said he wouldn't allow the players to use his injury as an excuse.
"We'll be accountable, win or lose," he said. "We'll be grown in how we handle it, because that's part of life. I tell our guys all the time, life is fragile. The success that we've had up until this point, it's fragile."
Marquette led by one point with 7:15 remaining after a jumper by McNeal, but Connecticut regained control with an 11-0 run that included three three-point plays - one by Kemba Walker and two by Robinson on consecutive possessions that put the Huskies up 82-74 with 4:28 remaining.
Marquette rallied again to cut the lead to three on a pull-up jumper by McNeal with 2:28 left. And the Golden Eagles appeared to come up with a defensive stop when Price missed a driving layup, but McNeal was called for a loose ball foul and Jeff Adrien hit two free throws to extend the lead to five.
Price then hit the big 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:10 remaining and added two free throws to put Connecticut ahead 91-81 with 45.5 seconds left.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Huskies didn't do much to involve 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet on offense very much in the first half, despite having a significant size advantage over Marquette's tallest starter, 6-8 Dwight Burke. But Thabeet scored nine of his 14 points in the second half and finished with 15 rebounds.
Thabeet remained a force on defense throughout the game, blocking five shots and altering just about anything Marquette did in the paint.
Although Calhoun could celebrate a big win and a milestone after a game - his wife promised to serve cake when he got home - he still couldn't quite get past his recent dustup with a freelance journalist.
Marquette's student section certainly didn't let him forget about it, frequently chanting "not one dime" - part of Calhoun's terse response to a question about his willingness to give back part of his salary during hard economic times - and holding up signs with Calhoun's head on a coin.
Before beginning his postgame news conference, Calhoun asked reporters to save any questions not related to basketball for afterward. Not that he was planning to hang around and answer them.
"I'll be more than happy to not answer those (questions) outside, because I'm just not going to answer them," Calhoun said.