Sunday, March 11, 2007

There's Always Next Year

I'm very much aware that the title of this entry is a rallying cry for many sports organizations (hi Cubbies!). This year, it's also one for UConn, one that us fans have used many times in the past. However, this year is different. For the first time since Jim Calhoun's first season at UConn, the Huskies will not be attending a post-season tournament. So, to help lift my spirits, here's a rundown of my Top 20 UConn games in my lifetime. As with all of my Top 20 lists, this is solely based on my feelings, not general consensus. Also, my lifetime basically extends back to the beginning of the Big East. I don't remember much of the Yankee Conference Huskies, so no comments regarding any omissions there.

March 19, 1993 vs. Jackson State (watching Lindsey Hunter drop 39 in a UConn NIT loss)

December 6, 1986
Purdue 88, UConn 70 (HCC, attn. 9,155)
UConn falls at home to the #4 team in the country. This makes the list because I was able to move down & sit directly behind the visitors bench, yelling like mad at Gene Keady & constantly calling Boilermaker Doug Lee, "Ugg Lee".

February 20, 1988
Syracuse 73, UConn 71 (HCC)
I'm at this game with my Dad, on his birthday, as we watch Jeff King throw a horrible inbounds pass in the final seconds of a close game, which leads to the game-winning points. UConn falls to the #12 in the country and we are devestated.

March 24, 2002
Maryland 90, UConn 82 (Elite Eight at Syracuse)
This makes the list because I was there & was hoping to watch UConn make the Final Four. Unfortunately, the fell to the eventual national champs, but I did get to watch Caron Butler go down swinging. In his final game as a Husky, he dropped 32 points, 26 in the second half, almost single-handidly carrying UConn to victory.

March 24, 1990
Duke 79, UConn 78 (Elite Eight)
March 24 seems to be a bad day. He Who Shall Not Be Named hits a shot at the buzzer to end The Dream Season. Memories of Tate George with a game-sealing steal falling out of bounds continues to haunt me. I'll share this picture of HWSNBN to make us feel better.

January 26, 2002
UConn 100, Arizona 98 (OT, @ Arizona)
No more losses on this list. This is unreal game from Emeka Okafor/Ben Gordon's freshman year. Mek should've had a triple-double, but the official scorer robbed him of at least two blocks. (He finished with 9)

November 28, 1987
UConn 102, Maryland-Eastern Shore 63 (Field House)
My first game at the Field House. Other than that, not too memorable. Even though UConn score 102 points, they made only two three-pointers, both by Greg Economou, not Phil Gamble.

February 28, 1987
UConn 56, Seton Hall 54(HCC, attn. 8,130)
Once again, the lack of fans allows me to sit directly behind the home bench. I sit one row behind suspended stars Cliff Robinson & Phil Gamble, who both sign my program. UConn wins it's 9th & final game of the season. This was the last season UConn failed to make the postseason until this year.

March 9, 1996
UConn 75, Georgetown 74 (BE Championship Game, MSG)
Ray Allen hits a running jumper to give UConn the lead. The Allen Iverson-led Hoyas miss two easy shots at the buzzer, leading to another UConn BE Tourney championship & a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney. That ended ugly two weeks later against Mississippi State.

March 24, 2006
UConn 98, Washington 92 (OT) (Sweet 16 in Washington, DC)
This one's for you Brian! UConn trailed by six with 1:55 to go in regulation and Rashad Anderson hit a game-tying three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left. They never trailed in regulation, moving on to the George Mason debacle two days later. Next please.

March 19, 1998
UConn 75, Washington 74 (Sweet 16 in Greensboro, NC)
Sorry Brian. Another miraculous finish, this time with Rip Hamilton hitting the game-winner after what seemed like 10 missed shots prior to that. My Dad was there to witness this beauty. Again, this set the stage for another Elite Eight loss to the hometown Tar Heels two days later.

January 20, 1990
UConn 70, Georgetown 65 (HCC)
This was a snowy Saturday night. Dad was there, but I was stuck in Torrington watching the game on a 5" inch black & white TV. I liked what I saw, as UConn jumped out to a big early lead, preventing the #2 Alonzo Mourning-led Hoyas from ascending to the #1 spot the following week.

January 15, 1990
UConn 70, Syracuse 59 (HCC)
Five days before the aforementioned Georgetown game, UConn squared off against the Orangemen on ESPN. Syracuse was ranked #5, which made this win one of the program's biggest wins ever at the time. We had great seats for this one, compared to our regular seats, so this was special.

March 13, 2004
UConn 61, Pittsburgh 58 (BE Championship Game, MSG)
One of the most amazing games I've ever been to. UConn trailed most of the game, but for some reason, I sensed they were going to win. Pitt shot the ball extremely well early on & UConn struggled. I was hoping the Law of Averages would take over & they did. Unreal atmosphere in the Garden that night.

March 30, 1988
UConn 72, Ohio State 67 (NIT Championship, MSG)
I listened to this one on the radio, laying in bed, while Dad was there. An unbelievable moment, UConn going all the way to win a title. I'm aware it was the NIT, but this is UConn we're talking about. They won 9 games the year before and had never sniffed the post-season since I started watching. Unreal.

March 20, 1999
UConn 67, Gonzaga 62 (Elite Eight in Phoenix)
Finally, UConn is over the hump. They made it interesting, but they finally proved they can make it to a Final Four. I was proud to be watching on TV with my Dad.

March 25, 1988
UConn 72, Virgina-Commonwealth 61 (NIT Elite Eight, Field House)
I remember this game like it was yesterday. It was a Friday night & Dad picked me up for school. This was only my second game at the Field House & it was for a ticket back to MSG for the NIT Final Four. It was ridiculously hot in that building, but also incredibly loud. According to many reports, it was the loudest home game ever, no matter the venue. Dust was falling from the rafters it was so loud. I would love to get a copy of this game. I was glad to be one of the 4,801 in attendence.

March 22, 1990
UConn 71, Clemson 70 (Sweet Sixteen, Meadowlands)
The Shot. Scott Burrell to Tate George with one second remaining. I'm afraid to say I didn't see the play happen live. I was too busy crying into a pillow. A game that UConn was in control of the entire time had slipped away in the closing minutes & they were going to lose. I couldn't bear to watch. I heard it, but I didn't see it. (Dad, you don't get off easy here either. You took Trapper out for a walk & missed it too.) This game made the Duke loss two days later that much more painful.

April 5, 2004
UConn 82, Georgia Tech 73 (National Championship, San Antonio)
This isn't #2 only because it was almost anti-climactic. Don't get me wrong, it was still amazing, but after the game before and the fact they were always in control, knocks it down a peg.

April 3, 2004
UConn 79, Duke 78 (Final Four, San Antonio)
Whew. This was a barn-burner. Like the BE Championship game against Pittsburgh, UConn trailed late. However, some timely three's & clutch free throws gave them the victory. This was sweet given the opponent and the sense that UConn was the class of the country & deserved to win. A great game.

March 29, 1999
UConn 77, Duke 74 (National Championship, St. Petersburg)
I don't have to look any of that information up. I can remember what I had for dinner that night. (Chicken & rice, one of the only things I can cook.) This was something that I thought I would never see. To do it against the hated Dukies, when the national media had already crowned them National Champions, was simply amazing. A night I'll never forget.


Beach said...

Great list pal. I would have thought you'd rank UConn-Clemson no. 2, right behind beating the Pukies for the whole thing in 1999 (a game I taped for you).

I also thought you'd have the NIT title higher. That was a memorable run even for a non-UConn fan like me.

Maybe someday I'll come up with a Hofstra top 20. Or top 10. Or top 5.

ME said...

I still have that tape buddy!

Trust me, any game in the Top 10 are forever burned in my memory. The rankings at the top merely reflect the overall significance of the game.

The NIT run was fantastic. Note the two games from that tourney & only one from '99.

I'd love to see that Hofstra list!

Anonymous said...

hey great list! Is there any chance you have a copy of the 1999 championship game? I would love to see it again. Please let me know by email:

joeraccio said...

Great Post! Lots of Great games! I'd have to rank the "Tatters" shot
number#1! That just seemed to get the Huskies to the next level! If that shot doesn't drop . . .

Thanks for the great memories!

Rach-Hamden (82)

Brian said...

I'm surprised you didn't have the Elite Eight loss ('96?) to UCLA. Both teams played great, maybe even better than in the loss to Maryland.