Buffalo Gives #2 UCONN Major Scare

December 4th, 2008
BUFFALO, NY - The last time Connecticut played a game at the University at Buffalo was 1951. You can bet it will be another 50 years before the Huskies return to Amherst after the Bulls put a major scare into the nation's second-ranked team. UB fell to Connecticut, 68-64, before a frenzied crowd at Alumni Arena.

The Bulls were led by Rodney Pierce who scored a career-high 28 points. The junior shooting guard was a one-man wrecking crew early as he scored the Bulls' first eight points, helping UB jump out to an 8-2 lead. A lay-up by Sean Smiley put the Bulls ahead 24-16. Connecticut rattled off 11 unanswered points to take a two-point advantage. A leaning jumper by Pierce in the closing seconds of the half tied the game at 32.

Both teams traded baskets for much of the second half before UConn took a 63-56 lead, its largest of the game, with 4:18 remaining. However, an undaunted Bulls squad kept battling and a pair of free throws by Pierce cut the Huskies' lead to 66-64 with 43 seconds left. On Connecticut's ensuing possession, Jawaan Alston and Calvin Betts converged on UConn's Kemba Walker on the sideline, forcing him to turn the ball over. However, Walker atoned for his miscue as he knocked the ball away from Pierce who was driving to the basket for the tying score in the closing seconds of the game.

The difference in the game was the play of Connecticut's 7-3 center Hasheem Thabeet. He finished the night with 21 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots. However, the Bulls did a good job keeping Thabeet off the offensive glass, holding the Huskies' big man to only two offensive rebounds.

Connecticut was a team that averaged nearly 10 rebounds more than its opponents this year, yet on Thursday both teams grabbed 37 boards. Buffalo had a season-low seven turnovers - three less that UConn.

"I thought Reggie had his team incredibly well-prepared. They didn't try any tricks. That's how they play," Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun said.  "Quite frankly, they probably outplayed us in the game. They outworked us at least."

Max Boudreau scored 10 points and Betts added nine for the Bulls.

Another major difference in the game was the free throw shooting. The Huskies went to the free throw line 26 times while the Bulls were only 9-for-10 from the charity stripe. The Bulls were whistled for 14 more fouls than Connecticut.

"We came into this game not seeing ourselves as the underdogs," freshman forward Mitchell Watt said. "We believe in ourselves, we take pride in playing for UB and we think that we are prepared to take it to anybody who comes in here."