UM wins conference thriller

In the latest installment of what has become one of the great rivalries in the Big East, the Hurricanes men’s basketball team knocked off its enemy from the north in dramatic fashion.
On Saturday night, less than a month after UConn snuck out a one-point victory in Connecticut, the ‘Canes retaliated with a 68-66 win at the Miami Arena. A two handed slam by Elton Tyler, assisted by John Salmons, was the difference at the end, sealing the win with only 12 seconds remaining in the game.
An announced crowd of 10,135 fans, the ninth largest in UM basketball history, saw a classic battle between two of the best teams in the Big East. The game featured 18 lead changes, 11 ties, and a block by 6-1 guard Michael Simmons in the closing seconds that had Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun questioning the officials.
After the Tyler dunk, Calhoun called for a three-point play for reserve guard Ben Gordon. Gordon, seemingly wide open for the game-winning shot was rejected by the shorter Simmons. Time expired in a frenzy of blue and white jerseys diving for the final rebound. It was only Simmons’ second blocked shot this season, something Calhoun contested vehemently after the game.
“His shot traveled 10 feet,” Calhoun said, referring to Gordon’s shot. “I don’t see how, if there was no contact on the play. I see (the final statistics) calls it a blocked shot. I saw something else. But if it says here it is a block, then we’ll call it a block, won’t we?”
Calhoun may have been especially angry because the loss gave the Huskies their first losing streak of the season. UConn fell to 14-5 (6-2 in the Big East), just a half game ahead of Miami (19-3, 6-2) for the conference lead.
The back and forth action saw the game tied at 61 with 1:07 to play and Tyler at the foul line. The senior made both free throws with the help of a Johnnie Selvie lane violation that gave Tyler another chance to extend UM’s lead to two. Tyler finished 6-for-12 from the floor for 16 points.
With the crowd at its feet, Caron Butler stepped out beyond the 3-point arc and hit his first and only three pointer of the game to put UConn ahead 64-63 with 53 seconds to play. While many Hurricane fans saw visions of Troy Bell’s three-point dagger in the Boston College loss, Miami was able to battle back.
After a time-out, the Hurricanes looked for any type of open look and found one with Salmons, who used the backboard to convert on a long range three-pointer.
“It was a bad shot,” said Salmons, who finished 6-of-15 for 20 points. “I think if I missed that shot, I would have been benched.”
The three gave Miami a 66-64 lead with 33 seconds left. The Huskies benefited from a confused Hurricane defense and Taliek Brown coasted in for an easy lay-up to tie the score at 66-66. That set up the Salmons bounce pass to Tyler for the game-winning dunk.
“They doubled-teamed him, and no one rotated down with me,” Tyler said. “John made the easy pass to me, and I was able to throw it down. It was a great pass, John deserves the credit for making the play.”
Calhoun thought the entire Hurricane squad deserved the credit, as opposed to assigning blame to his players.
“Did it ever occur to you that Miami played better?” Calhoun asked reporters. “That it wasn’t something we did wrong as much as perhaps Miami’s guys did something right? Try to give [Miami] a little credit.”
Miami will try to stay close to the top of the Big East when they travel to Villanova to take on the Wildcats on Tuesday night.