Connecticut forward Jeff Adrien celebrates Connecticut's 88-83 overtime win over Gonzaga, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008, at an NCAA college basketball game at KeyArena in Seattle - AP Photo

One of these days, the No. 2/2 UConn Huskies are going to figure out how to play against a zone defense. But until they do, we are going to see them play like they did today, which wasn’t exactly pretty at times. They’re also going to need to figure out how to play when Hasheem Thabeet gets into foul trouble like he did this afternoon.

But after leading by 11 points in the first half and then trailing by 11 points in the second, A.J. Price hit a 3 pointer with 7.8 seconds remaining to tie the game and force overtime. In overtime, it was all Huskies as they survived to pick up an 88-83 win over the No. 8/7 Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Battle of Seattle at a sold-out Key Arena.

With the Huskies (10-0) trailing by 11 at 57-46 with 11:52 to go, UConn started it’s comeback behind Price and Jerome Dyson. In just 3 minutes, a 9-2 run by the Huskies cut the Zags lead to 59-55. A Steven Gray layup put the Zags back up 6 but Price drained a three pointer to cut the lead back to 3.  After Josh Heytvelt hit two free throws, Price nailed another 3 to cut the lead down to 2 points at 63-61.

Gonzaga's Steven Gray calls for a time-out as he is contained by Connecticut forward Jeff Adrien, left, and Connecticut guard A.J. Price, right, - AP PhotoThe two teams exchanged baskets and then a Stanley Robinson layup cut the lead to 1 point with 3:30 to go in the game. Micah Downs gave the Zags a 4 point lead with a 3 pointer and then two free throws from Gavin Edwards cut it back to 2 and then the Zags Austin Daye made it 4 points again. Two free throws by Jeff Adrien and 1 from Price  brought the lead down to 1 point with 33 seconds remaining. UConn went for the steal but Gonzaga called timeout.

After the timeout, they went for the steal again but couldn’t get so they fouled Matt Bouldin who drained both free throws to give  Gonzaga a 3 point lead. Craig Austrie had the first chance to the tie game but he missed his 3. Dyson got the rebound and got the ball to Price who made the heroic three pointer to force overtime.

UConn got the first basket of overtime on Thabeet dunk. After the dunk when he was going back up the floor, he was called for a very questionable technical foul for taunting which gave him his 5th foul of the evening. The Zags were only able to convert one of the free throws and held off the Zags on the ensuing possession. Edwards and Jeremy Pargo exchanged baskets and then the Huskies went on a 6-0 run to put the game away as they held off the Zags down the stretch to pick up a hard fought win in front of a pro-Gonzaga crowd even though this was technically a neutral court game.

Price led all scorers in the game with 24 points while adding 10 assists. Dyson scored 6 of his 21 points in overtime and also had 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Edwards probably had one of his best, if not the best, games in a Husky uniform as he had 14 points and 12 rebounds filling in for Thabeet who spent most of the game in foul trouble. The foul trouble made a Thabeet a non-factor in the game as he scored 9 points but only pulled down 2 rebounds mainly because Gonzaga pulled him away from the basket on the defensive end. Jeff Adrien had 8 points and 8 rebounds as well.

Gray paced the Zags (8-2) with 23 points and also had 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Pargo had 16 points while Heytvelt had 15 points and stayed away from the mushrooms. Daye had 13 points and Downs had 9 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out.

UConn got out of the gates quickly taking a 13-2 lead before Gonzaga started to comeback just a little. They got UConn’s lead down to 8 but really made a push when they switched to a zone defense and when Thabeet picked up his second foul with 8:30 to go in the first half. Trailing by 9 at that point, they were able to battle back and take a 1 point lead before Price hit two free throws to give UConn a 38-37 lead at the half.

A good win for the Huskies who were able to survive the tough test. There are still questions though as they WILL need to figure out how to play against a zone and when Thabeet gets into foul trouble. Edwards showed that he can be a capable replacement if Thabeet gets into foul trouble but we’ll have to see if this was just a one game thing. For the first time all season, Kemba Walker looked a little out of his element as he only played 12 minutes and didn’t score.

Nonetheless, a good test and a good win in a hostile setting on a “neutral court.”  The Huskies are now off for 6 days and will return to action on Friday night when the Fairfield Stags come to the XL Center in Hartford, CT. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM and the game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Notes and musings:

UConn Huskies vs Gonzaga Bulldogs Battle In Seattle 12.20.08 box score

The starters were A.J. Price, Craig Austrie, Jerome Dyson, Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet.

This was the 41st game for UConn under Jim Calhoun where both teams were ranked in the top ten. The Huskies have a record of 25-15 in the previous 40 contests. This is the second time UConn and Gonzaga will meet with both teams ranked in the top ten. No. 3 UConn topped No. 8 Gonzaga in the 2005 Maui Invitational title game.

The Huskies returned to the state of Washington for the first time since the 2003 NCAA Tournament, where they won a pair of games against BYU and Stanford in the first and second rounds in Spokane.

In the win over Stony Brook, UConn had four players with five or more assists, the first time in school history that feat is known to have been accomplished. UConn also had a season-high 26 assists (on 32 baskets). The assist/basket percentage of 81.3% is the highest for the Huskies since a 78-74 loss at Notre Dame on January 30, 2005. In that contest, the Huskies had 23 assists on 28 made baskets, good for a 82.1% ratio.

Rough shooting night for the Huskies as they were 26-of-61 (42.6%). Gonzaga finished the game shooting 50% (32-of-64).

UConn won the battle of the boards 41-31.

The Huskies were 29-of-38 (76.3%) from the charity stripe.

UConn turned 14 Gonzaga turnovers into 22 points while the Zags converted 16 UConn turnovers into 20 points.

The Huskies had 22 second chance points to just 7 for Gonzaga.

The Zags bench outscored UConn’s 24-20.

Hasheem Thabeet finished with 1 block in the game to give him 300 in his career which is second all-time to Emeka Okafor.

The Huskies start 10-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season when they started 11-0.

UConn is now 3-1 all-time against Gonzaga and all four games have been decided by five points or less.