Men's Basketball: UConn squanders 14-point lead in 72-69 loss to old rival Georgetown

Freshman Christian Vital controls the ball against a Temple defender during UConn's 73-59 win over Temple on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 at Gampel Pavilion. Vital collected only five points and three rebounds in UConn's loss to Georgetown on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus) 

In a weekend rematch of old Big East rivals down in the nation’s capital, the UConn men’s basketball team let a 14-point second half lead slip away as they fell to their old foe Georgetown 72-69.

It was a close game for most of the first 20 minutes. Rodney Purvis got the Huskies started by hitting his first two shots, giving UConn (7-10, 2-3 The American) their first five points. The Hoyas played tough, and after UConn went up 11-6 after their first timeout five minutes into the half, Georgetown (10-8, 1-4 Big East) hit back-to-back threes to bring them within one point.

The points were exchanged in the ensuing minutes, but strong defense from both teams forced turnovers and blocks that kept the game at 17-16 until Vance Jackson hit a corner three at the end of the shot clock to put UConn up by four with 10 minutes to play.

The ball movement was lightning fast, forcing UConn to play at a speed they had not seen since perhaps Syracuse at the beginning of December. The result was Amida Brimah collecting two fouls in the first seven minutes, and he didn’t play for the rest of the half.

The Huskies fared well despite the absence of Brimah, who has done a standout job on defense over the last two games. Jackson kept going with another three, but the Hoyas’ Rodney Pryor, who averages 18.2 points per game, responded with a long-range jumper to bring the score to 23-20 with eight minutes left.

A layup from Georgetown’s L.J. Peak brought the Hoyas within one, but UConn responded with a beautiful feed from Adams to a dunk finish from Steven Enoch and a jumper from Christian Vital to put the Huskies up 27-22. Once the Hoyas brought it within three after fighting in traffic in the low post for a layup, Vital hit a big three from deep to elevate UConn’s lead with 3:22 to go.

After folding in a fast-paced game against Memphis weeks ago, the Huskies turned a complete 360, thriving in the hurried gameplay. After about seven passes around the perimeter, Jackson hit a straightaway three off a quick feed from Adams, who amassed seven assists in the first half alone. Georgetown hit a couple free throws in the final minute, but UConn went into halftime with a well-earned 33-27 lead.

Things began to change in the second half. Not even a minute in, Brimah picked up his third foul of the day, prompting head coach Kevin Ollie to sub him out for Enoch. It ultimately didn’t matter, because UConn went on a 10-2 run to begin the first five minutes of the second half, putting Georgetown down by 14.

However, the Hoyas responded with a 16-2 run of their own, which consisted of a four 3-pointers and a monstrous one-handed dunk by Pryor, to suddenly bring the score to an even 45-45 with 11:47 to go.

The dunk gave Georgetown the momentum they had been looking for all game. After going scoreless from the floor for eight minutes with only two points made on free throws, Adams finally broke the ice with a contested 3-pointer to trim Georgetown’s 51-47 lead, their largest of the game, down to 51-50.

Adams sunk three buckets in a row, complimented by two made free throws from Kentan Facey, to give the Huskies 57-55 lead before Pryor flipped the score back in Georgetown’s favor with another 3-pointer with 5:21 to go. Soon after, Brimah fouled out after only seven minutes of play in the second half, capping off a disappointing three-point, three-rebound game.

Back-to-back layups by Peak and Pryor put the Hoyas back up six with 3:30 to go, but a quick layup from Adams and a failed attempt by Facey to capitalize on three-point play put UConn back within two with 1:58 to go. After a couple free throws from both sides brought the score to 67-64, Georgetown got three offensive rebounds in a row and finally sunk a layup to make the score 69-65, perhaps the deciding basket.

The two teams would exchange fouls for the next minute, but Georgetown’s Jessie Govan missed one of his, allowing UConn the chance to tie the game on a 3-pointer. However, Jackson missed an open corner three and, after getting the offensive rebound and forcing the Hoyas to knock it out of bounds, Adams chucked up the game-tying three from the point, but it bounced short, solidifying the final score in favor of Georgetown, 72-69.

It was not only a matter of who shot better or worse, since UConn went 23-for-50 (46.0 percent) from the floor and Georgetown went 24-for-55 (43.6 percent) from the floor, but it was a test of who could control the momentum in a game that had no time for mistakes. After the Hoyas went on a 16-2 run, the momentum was clearly in their favor for the rest of the game, forcing UConn to take bad shots and putting them in a position where they could not afford to foul.

Adams finished with a team-best 22 points, 17 of those coming in the second half alone, which undoubtedly kept UConn in the game after they squandered their 14-point lead. Jackson and Facey also finished in double digits, scoring 13 and 10, respectively.

On the Hoyas’ side, Peak stole the show with 21 points, 13 of those points coming in the second half. Govan and Pryor also hit double digits, scoring 15 and 14, respectively.

The Huskies will return to action this Thursday, where they will be put to the test against conference rival SMU in Dallas at 7 p.m. ET.


Stephanie Sheehan is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus, covering men’s basketball. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.