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Late Huskies surge falls short

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) -- Massachusetts made sure its first home
game against a defending national champion was one to remember.

The Minutemen stunned Connecticut 61-59 on
Rashaun Freeman's layup with 4.3 seconds to play Thursday night.
Many of the 9,037 fans stormed the court at Mullins Center after
the final buzzer. It was the largest crowd in Amherst in four
years.

"I felt like we won the national championship! I never saw a
crowd like that around here," UMass guard Anthony Anderson said.
"We've been saying that this was our year. Maybe we showed it
tonight."

Freeman, who led UMass with 18 points and eight rebounds, came
up big time and again for the Minutemen (3-2), who beat the Huskies (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 7 AP) for the first time in 14 meetings in what is known as "The U Game."

The Huskies (4-1) ran into a hostile environment on their first
road trip of the season.

Freeman and his teammates outhustled the Huskies from the
opening tip and got the best of UConn's frontcourt, which had been
outrebounding opponents by 25 boards a game. The teams finished
even with 39 rebounds each, but UMass had a slight edge on the
glass in the first half and outscored Connecticut 42-24 in the
paint for the game.

"I told them at halftime we outrebounded UConn. That's
unbelievable," UMass coach Steve Lappas said. "I also told them
that we outscored them for a half, that's also unbelievable. Now
the big challenge -- we've got to win the second half."

The Huskies came back from a 12-point, first-half deficit and
held a tenuous five-point lead late in the game.

But Freeman hit consecutive baskets with under four minutes
left, pulling the Minutemen within 55-54.

Turnovers doomed the Huskies down the stretch. Antonio Kellogg
dribbled the ball off his foot, and the Minutemen made him pay.
Jeff Viggiano hit a 3-pointer with 55.2 seconds left to give UMass
a 57-55 lead.

"It had to be my best basket at UMass," Viggiano said. "It
helps when your teammates get behind you."

After UConn's Rudy Gay hit a pair of free throws to tie on the
next possession, the Minutemen raced upcourt on the inbounds play
and Art Bowers hit Freeman in full stride for the winner. For
Freeman, the buzzer came just in time.

"I had leg cramps at the end," Freeman said. "I really didn't
want to go into overtime."

It was UConn coach Jim Calhoun's first loss to UMass in his 19
years with the Huskies.

"They outworked us, outhustled us and we never really
responded," Calhoun said. "I couldn't be more disappointed."

Rudy Gay had 13 points for UConn. Josh Boone added 12 and led
the Huskies with nine rebounds.

The Minutemen dominated inside early and used a 14-1 run to put
the Huskies in an early hole. Stephan Lasme and Freeman combined
for eight points in the spurt. Viggiano's putback with 12 minutes
remaining capped the run and gave UMass an 18-7 lead, bringing a
thunderous roar from the crowd.

Lawrence Carrier hit a 3-pointer with 8:46 remaining to give
UMass its largest lead at 25-13.

The Huskies finally got untracked and reeled off a 10-0 run. Gay
and Rashad Anderson hit 3-pointers in the outburst.

Gay's two free throws with 2:24 left pulled the Huskies even at
27-all, and after a steal by Marcus Williams, the Huskies briefly
grabbed the lead by a basket on Charlie Villanueva's dunk.

The Minutemen closed out the half on Bower's jumper to take a
31-29 lead at the break.

"It was a gutsy win for our kids," Lappas said.