April 3,2004 – the UConn Men had breezed thru the first for games of the NCAA Tournament. Again using Phoenix as the springboard to it’s second Final Four, this time in San Antonio…Where the team the Huskies beat to win it all in 1999 was waiting…The Duke Blue Devils..This game played out a lot like the Big East Final against Pittsburgh
A fast start..15-4 out of the gate despite Emeka Okafor picking up two early fouls where he spent the rest of the half on the bench. Duke after making just 1 FG in it’s first 14 possessions, got it’s sea legs and took off over the last 14 minutes…37-19 and a 41-34 halftime lead. An 18 point swing after being down 11 early and Okafor scoreless.
That changed in the second half..and the Mighty Oak played a role. One of the highlights a block of a Lual Deng shot and turnaround jumper to get the Huskies within one at 59-58. But Duke answered every UConn run and led by what seemed to be an insurmountable lead of 8 with 3:30 left considering the Blue Devils were in the double bonus. In fact, I was sitting at bar at the UConn Women's Hotel with the late Arnold Dean thinking that. BUT, between poor shot selection by Duke and solid UConn defense, they never got there. The Huskies stormed back stormed back. Rashad Anderson a 3, Ben Gordon FT’s and a Okafor baseline turnaround cut the lead to one at 75-74. Then the man on a mission put the Huskies up to stay as Okafor missed a go ahead shot, Josh Boone, who had 14 rebounds in the game, tapped the ball to keep it alive, then out of a scrum, Okafor grabbed it, spun and scored to put UConn up and for good. Anderson made a pair of free throws, the with 3.5 seconds left after another Duke miss, made his second free throw to to put UConn up four and clinch the win as bart of a 12-0 run.
79-78 Huskies as Okafor scored all 18 of his points in the 2nd half..Ben Gordon added 18 and Rashad Anderson had 14 in the win. As the second big comeback in 3 weeks left them with one hurdle left, Georgia Tech in the National Championship…April 3, 2004