Published February 01. 2013 4:00AM Updated February 01. 2013 9:38AM
Providence - This was the ultimate example of finding a way to win.
UConn was pounded on the boards, outrebounded by a Big East record tying margin.
The Huskies were badly outscored from the foul line.
They had three frontcourt players foul out.
Yet they still emerged from a fierce tug-of-war with a thrilling 82-79 overtime victory over Providence at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, where they hadn't won since 2006.
The victory was almost beyond explanation.
"I don't know what to tell you…," coach Kevin Ollie said. "I really love the fact that we had more points than Providence. … It was just a gutty win. And we found a way.
"I don't know how we did it, but we found a way to dig deep and get a game that was all from the heart."
The crazy game featured 12 ties and six lead changes after intermission. Freshman Omar Calhoun hit the biggest shot, burying a 3-pointer from the corner with 41 seconds in overtime left for a 79-76 lead.
Sophomore Ryan Boatright (19 points) set up the go-ahead basket, drawing a crowd as he drove baseline and then passing it out to an open Calhoun.
Calhoun, who has no shortage of confidence, did the rest.
"I knew I was going to knock that shot down," Calhoun said. "It was too big a shot to miss."
Junior Shabazz Napier (18 points) made three of four free throws and Providence's Bryce Cotton, the Big East's leading scorer, misfired on a tough potential game-tying three-pointer in the closing seconds, as UConn (14-5, 4-3) held on.
"We stuck together when the intensity picked up," Boatright said.
The Huskies escaped with the win despite being outrebounded (55-24) and outscored from the foul line (32-19). The rebound margin tied the conference record (64-33) set by St. John's in a win over Seton Hall on Feb. 26, 1997.
UConn somehow overcame its rebounding woes; The Friars (10-11, 2-7) had 28 offensive boards but struggled from the field, shooting just 33.8 percent.
The Huskies displayed character and grit after losing a 15-point first half lead.
"We just kept our composure and made sure we always stayed together," Napier said. "We didn't play so well rebounding-wise, we stayed together and made sure we had each other's back."
This was anybody's game as the teams headed into the second half with UConn leading 33-32. The Huskies already were dealing with adversity, as starting forward Tyler Olander suffered from flu-like symptoms and Boatright came up limping after turning his ankle in the first half.
Neither team led by more than five points - UConn 52-47 with 10:13 remaining - after intermission. Fouls began to mount, as whistle-happy officials called a total of 55 fouls.
After PC's LaDontae Henton scored on a tough drive to tie the game at 69-all with 19 seconds left in regulation, UConn set up for the potential game-winning basket.
But Boatright forced up a shot in traffic and PC freshman Kris Dunn of New London came up with a big block to force overtime.
During overtime, UConn reserve center Enosch Wolf, Olander and forward DeAndre Daniels (18 points, a team-high seven rebounds) all fouled out, forcing Ollie to go with a small lineup. PC also lost senior Vincent Council (15 points) to fouls.
Napier scored eight points in overtime, including a 3-pointer with 2:23 left that put UConn in front, 76-74.
The Friars, who've lost nine of their last 11 games, fought back to tie the game (76-76) on single free throws by Dunn and Kadeem Batts.
Calhoun's clutch shot rescued the Huskies who secured one of their best wins of the season.
"In the second half, we challenged them to play tougher and that's what they did," Ollie said.
Dunn finished with seven points and tied a career high with eight rebounds in 31 minutes.