First written on Stupid Sideline Reporters.
This is it. The grand finale of the inaugural Battle of the Losers tournament! We’ve seen upsets like Portland State over Vanderbilt and thrillers like UConn vs. Drake. It started with 32 teams, 30 will not play in the title game, 28 won’t even get a consolation prize. These are tonight’s matches:
3rd Place Game - #8 Indiana vs. #11 Kentucky
BOTL Title Game - #4 Connecticut vs. #7 Gonzaga
Let’s get the results in:
Indiana 64 Kentucky 57
Both teams could not shoot if their lives depended on it, but free throws down the stretch give Indiana 3rd place over the Wildcats. Defense ruled the first half with authority. With Kentucky up 20-16, Indiana held them scoreless the next 6:13 seconds…not that Indiana fared much better in that span. They made all of one field goal and scored 8 points to take the 24-20 edge. The drought for Kentucky was ended on a Perry Stevenson free throw, and they tied it at the buzzer on a Joe Crawford three. A 24-24 halftime score, I kid you not.
A totally different 2nd half however, you knew defense wouldn’t rule the entire way right? Sadly, the Wildcats just kept digging themselves into a hole, as they made 18-49 shots in the game, and we’re down 51-41 with 6:53 left, after another scoreless drought.
Billy Gillespie’s team was brave though, and they battled back by forcing turnovers and playing solid defense. With 2:09, Joe Crawford, who had the game to remember against UConn in the semis, scored the tying jumper, only his 4th field goal of the game on a terrible night, but it was 55-55. This is where free throws put Kentucky away down the stretch though. Eric Gordon hit 2 FTs for a 57-55 lead, and then after a blocked shot by Lance Stemler, Armon Bassett hit 1-2 for a 58-55 advantage. Back came Kentucky, Ramon Harris’ 2 free throws cut it to 58-57 with 1:11 to go.
The dagger for Kentucky came when DJ White, with the shot clock running down, nailed a tough turnaround shot with :24 left to give Indiana the 3 point lead (60-57) again. Kentucky could not hit a basket from there on, and Indiana iced it with more free throws for the win. Not a classic, but certainly a close one down the stretch.
UConn vs. Gonzaga
A wild atmosphere at the Alamodome, mainly because they know these games are much more exciting then the painful play of the Spurs. UConn vs. Gonzaga to decide it all!
Pretty even for the first 8 minutes, fast paced action, and Micah Downs’ two free throws cut UConn’s lead to 18-14 right after the 12:00 timeout. Too much UConn though, they steamrolled Mark Few’s listless Gonzaga side to a 43-27 halftime lead. UConn had scorers all around, mainly Jeff Adrien, who was literally on fire the entire tournament. For Gonzaga, this was shocking considering they ran rings around Indiana, scoring a tournament high 98 points.
Jim Calhoun could see his 3rd title in his UConn coaching career in his sights. Don’t count the Zags out though. Down 57-45, David Pendergraft got the ball rolling on a beautiful reverse lay-up. Gonzaga all of a sudden felt like playing defense and held UConn to 2-7 shooting for the next 3:00 and was within 61-55 with 8:58 to go.
Crunch time, UConn would not let up and refused to let that lead disappear. AJ Price’s open jumper with 3:54 built the lead back up to 75-67 and it looked like they would pull away. Not so fast my good friend! It’s Gus Johnson on the call of the final 1:35 of the game, with UConn up 78-73.
“Here’s Gray for THREEE!! OHHH MY!!!! Gonzaga withing 2!!! Back the other way, PRICE TO THE BASKET!!!! Beautiful floater by Price!! It’s 80-76 Huskies.”
“Under :50 to play, Steven Gray for THREE AGAIN!!! GOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!! It’s 80-79 with :44 left!!! OH WHAT a TITLE GAME!!!”
“Shot clock winding down, Robinson for the dagger!! NO! REBOUND HASHEEM THABEET!!! OH MY GOODNESS!! AND GRAY FOULS DYSON WITH :08 TO GO!!”
“Dyson, pure on both! 82-79 UConn!”
“Here we go!! Austin DAYE TO TIE!!!! NO!! HEYTFELT THE BOARD!! HEYTFELLLLLLLLT!!!! OH!!!! IT IS OFF THE RIM!!!!! AND UCONN WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP!!!! HOLY MACKEREL!”
Thank you Gus. So the #4 seed Connecticut survives a fantastic rally from Gonzaga to win a thriller 82-79, and they are your inaugural Battle of the Losers champion! Jeff Adrien is your MOP.
UConn 78 Drake 76 - Round of 32
UConn 86 BYU 79 - Sweet 16
UConn 78 Arizona 57 - Elite 8
UConn 65 Kentucky 64 - Final 4
UConn 82 Gonzaga 79 - Championship
It's UConn's One Shining Moment this time around!