San Antonio, Texas: for one night it was the epitomy of college basketball. For one lucky team that made it through the field of 65 Monday was that night. That team was the Connecticut Huskies as for one night they stood on top of the college basketball world. They had the most dominating big man in college basketball in Emeka Okafor, and the inside outside game of Ben Gordon in the shooting guard position. These two, probably the best at their positions, willed this Husky team to victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 82-73.This was revenge even if the Huskies didn’t want to openly admit it. No one expected Georgia Tech to have the season that they actually wound up having and it all started at the preseason NIT (or National Invitational Tournament.) Georgia Tech came out on fire upsetting ranked opponents right and left and eventually made it to the semifinals against the Huskies, who were the preverbial preseason number one. By knocking off the number one seeded Huskies, with an ailing Okafor, 77-61 Georgia Tech showed that it could play with the big boys. Six months later, all of that became a distant memory as they took to the floor one more time for all the marbles.
The actual score really doesn’t even begin to tell the story of the game. Okafor was dominant on the defensive end from the start. He was grabbing rebounds, blocking shots and putting back shots off of the offensive glass as the Huskies built a quick lead. Georgia Tech tried to claw their way back in but when they did the Huskies would pull away again. As the first half came to a close the Huskies were up by 15, 41-26. In the early part of the second half the Huskies and the Yellow Jackets traded baskets back and forth with neither team really getting anywhere. The Huskies then put in cruse control and coasted until the last few minutes of the game. That is when Georgia Tech started raining threes and fouled the Huskies on every play. Fouls were not a strong suite of the Huskies so there was a slight chance that using this method of shooting threes and fouling could get Georgia Tech back in the game. However, when the game got to within seven points, Coach Jim Calhoun told his Huskies to start playing like champions and they responded by walking away with a nine-point victory and the championship.
The night ended seeing Okafor end his college career with a double double, 24 points and 15 boards. Ben Gordon also chipped in with 21 points. The future for them may lie in this year’s NBA draft. For Coach Calhoun, this was his second championship in the last five years as he beat another ACC team, the Duke Blue Devils, back in 1999. That Husky team was led by former Coatesville product and current NBA star for the Detroit Pistons Richard “Rip” Hamilton. For Coach Paul Hewitt, this was his first appearance in the championship round and certainly not his last as he has pretty much his whole team returning and is assured a spot in the preseason top 10.