Shabazz Napier

Kevin Ollie said the referees did not cost UConn the game

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With UConn up three, Marquette guard Junior Cadougan drained a 30-footer at the buzzer to force overtime Tuesday night in Milwaukee. The Golden Eagles would go on to win 82-76 in the Big East opener.

Cadougan’s late-game heroics set up one of the most bizarre plays of the season. To start the extra frame, the referees had both teams lined up facing the wrong basket. UConn won the tip and scored 12 seconds the Huskies scored two points following a Marquette goaltending violation. It was then the referees realized the mistake, took two points off the board for the Huskies and awarded the ball to Marquette.

According to Don Amore of the Hartford Courant, UConn head coach Kevin Ollie isn’t using the referees’ mistake as an excuse for Tuesday’s loss.

“That play did not cost us the game,” Ollie told reporters following the game.

The bucket, which would have been awarded to Shabazz Napier, who tied a career high with 29 points, would have given UConn a 71-69 lead. After huddling together, the referees decided to remove the two points, which was the incorrect call according to the rules.

“When the official(s) permits a team to go in the wrong direction, and when the error is discovered all activity and time consumed shall count as though each team had gone in the proper direction.”

Following the game, Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post posted a statement from Big East official Karl Hess.

“The players went in the wrong direction tonight. Because we allowed that to happen, the only thing that was wrong is there was a goaltend on the play. We should have scored the goaltend and given Connecticut two points for that.”

“You have no team control after that, because you have a shot, so now you go to the alternating possession arrow. Because there is no team control at that point and then Marquette gets the ball and you head them all in the right direction.”

Tuesday’s sequence only adds to UConn’s suffering during the last few months. The Huskies aren’t eligible for postseason play and seem to be stuck in a Big East that will look more like Conference USA when all said and done.

For Marquette, Tuesday’s game provided the Golden Eagles with a key victory to start conference play. After a blowout loss to Florida and a bad one to Green Bay, Marquette can score another big win against Georgetown on Saturday at home.

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.