Huskies fall short in thriller vs. No. 4 Kentucky

UConn's Jerome Dyson, left, is pressured by Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe (24) and Patrick Patterson in the first half Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
UConn's Jerome Dyson, left, is pressured by Kentucky's Eric Bledsoe (24) and Patrick Patterson in the first half Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

New York - Forty frantic minutes later, UConn lost a heartbreaker Wednesday night.

The determined Huskies fought to the finish.

In one last attempt to extend the SEC-Big East Invitational showdown, senior Gavin Edwards misfired on an open 3-pointer from the corner. Sophomore Kemba Walker corralled the rebound, and let fly a contested 3-pointer that fell short just before the buzzer.

No. 14 UConn ran out of time and energy, losing to No. 4 Kentucky, 64-61, at Madison Square Garden. A potential signature win slipped away as the Huskies couldn't hold a seven-point second-half lead.

"Effort and attitude-wise, we played 40 good minutes of tough basketball," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "Kentucky made enough big plays."

Calhoun's worst pregame fears came true. A lack of depth hurt the Huskies. So did Kentucky's dynamic point guard John Wall, who scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half.

Wall, a freshman, finished off a daring drive into the lane and drew a foul from Alex Oriakhi. He hit the free throw to put the Wildcats (9-0) ahead for good, 63-61, with 30.8 seconds remaining. Ramon Harris made a free throw at the 13.9-second mark to extend the lead to three.

The Huskies failed in their two attempts out of a timeout. It was their second loss in less than two weeks to a top 10 program. No. 7 Duke scored a 68-59 win Nov. 27 in New York.

Senior Jerome Dyson led the Huskies with 17 points but sat out a key stretch late in the second half with four fouls. Edwards had 16 points and eight rebounds while Walker added 12 points.

The game featured wild momentum swings. UConn's 26-6 surge turned a 12-0 deficit into a 26-18 lead. The Huskies carried a six-point lead into the second half.

"We just came out flat, then we responded wonderfully," Calhoun said.

With Wall, who battled foul trouble, back in charge, the Wildcats regained their offensive rhythm. Wall's steal and fast-break layup capped a 7-0 run and cut the deficit to 33-32.

The Huskies tried to weather the surge. Dyson's 3-pointer - the first of the game by either team - and Walker's transition basket upped the lead to 40-34.

But the Wildcats kept coming. Patterson hit two free throws, giving Kentucky a 41-40 with 11:3l left - its first lead since 18-17. Darnell Dodson's 3-pointer made it 47-42.

Without a reliable bench, the Huskies began to wear down. Dyson missed a one-handed dunk attempt on the break. Trailing 49-46, Walker missed a free throw - a sign of weary legs.

Wall stepped in front of a poor Dyson pass and took off for a dunk, drawing Dyson's fourth foul. His natural 3-point play increased the deficit to 54-47.

UConn (6-2) had one last surge. Walker's 14-foot jumper put the Huskies in front for the last time, 61-60, with 1:13 left. The Wildcats answered.

To say the least, the Huskies started poorly. They committed turnovers on three of their first four possessions. They missed their first four shots. Calhoun called two timeouts in the first three and a half minutes.

Wall was a pest. He turned his third steal into a 15-foot jumper for an 8-0 lead. He drove through a sleeping defense for a transition basket for a 12-0 lead with 16:27 remaining. A large Kentucky crowd roared its approval.

Out of a timeout, UConn finally went on the attack, answering with a blistering 26-6 spurt. The Huskies bore down on defense and cranked up the fast break. Dyson fueled a momentum-turning 10-0 run, scoring six straight points.

g.keefe@theday.com

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