The greatest moments in the history of the NCAA tournament second weekend

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As weird as this may sound, I think I might like the second weekend of the NCAA tournament more than the first weekend.

The first weekend is full of insanity and wall-to-wall college basketball, which is awesome. Don’t get me wrong.

But the second weekend has a feel of completion to it. Not only do we get games between juggernauts, not only do we get the culmination of narratives and cinderella storylines, but we actually crown someone.

Getting out of the first weekend is an accomplishment.

Getting out of the second weekend is a banner.

There’s a difference, and you can feel it in the buildings and with the way the games are played.

Here are my favorite moments from the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

THE GREATEST GAME OF THEM ALL

Duke’s win over Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight in Philadephia is likely the best college basketball game ever played.

Mike Krzyzewski vs. Rick Pitino. Christian Laettner vs. Jamal Mashburn. The game was tied at 93 after regulation. There were five lead changes in the final minute of overtime. Sean Woods somehow banked in a floater from the foul line with 2.2 seconds left to put Kentucky in the lead.

Then this happened:

I think the most under-appreciated part of this game is that Laettner quite literally played a perfect game. He was 10-for-10 from the floor. He was 10-for-10 from the line. He scored 31 points. He hit a game-winner. And he stomped on someone’s chest without getting tossed.

That’s quite a game.

KANSAS STATE AND XAVIER PLAY AN INSTANT CLASSIC

The best game in the history of the second weekend of the NCAA tournament pitted arguably the two biggest programs in the country, a pair of Hall of Fame head coaches, a couple of future top five picks and a trip to the Final Four.

The second best game of the NCAA tournament’s second weekend?

There’s an argument to be made that it didn’t feature a team that is among the top two basketball programs in their own state.

Tu Holloway and Jamal Crawford vs. Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente lived up to all the hype and more, as No. 2-seed Kansas State beat No. 6-seed Xavier, 101-96, in double-overtime for the right to lose to Butler in the Elite Eight.

There were so many unbelievable moments and calls during that game, but one stands out as the best of them all — and maybe the best of Gus Johnson’s career as a broadcast:

He goes into full-on meltdown mode, which is exactly what every single person watching this game, either in the arena or on TV, did at the exact same time.

And that, quite frankly, is why Gus Jeezy is a legend.

VIRGINIA SURVIVES CARSEN’S INFERNO

For my money, the third-best game in the history of the second weekend of the NCAA tournament came just this past season.

Carsen Edwards scored 24 of his 42 points in the second half, including a five minute stretch where he scored 14 points, completely lighting up the best defender in college basketball in Deandre Hunter. His sharp-shooting led the Boilermakers back from eight points down to take the lead in the final seconds, which set up arguably the most memorable shot of Virginia’s 2019 title run:

There are a couple things worth talking about beyond the insanity of this game itself.

First and foremost, it might not have even been the craziest game that Purdue played that weekend. The Boilermakers blew an 18-point lead with 16 minutes left to Tennessee, forced overtime when Edwards was fouled shooting a three at the end of regulation and eventually won in the extra period. This came one round after Tennessee blew a 25-point second half lead to Iowa in the second round before winning that game in overtime.

The other part of this is that some believe that the 2019 Elite Eight was the best Elite Eight of all-time. Duke-Michigan State was a thriller. Texas Tech-Gonzaga was a great game. Auburn found a way to upset Kentucky without Chuma Okeke.

But still, I disagree.

BECAUSE THE 2005 ELITE EIGHT WAS BONKERS

The game that everyone remembers is when No. 1-seed Illinois came back from 15 points down in the final four minutes — and from eight points down in the final 1:10 — to beat No. 3-seed Arizona in overtime.

That comeback was absolutely bonkers, but it wasn’t even the biggest comeback of the day. In the first game of the day, No. 4-seed Louisville erased a 38-18 deficit against Kevin Pittsnoggle, John Beilein and No. 7-seed West Virginia to win 93-85 in overtime.

As an aside, that wasn’t even the craziest exit that we saw from a Kevin Pittsnoggle team in the NCAA tournament, because that came a year later on this insane sequence:

The third game of the 2005 Elite Eight featured No. 1-seed North Carolina ousting No. 6-seed Wisconsin is good, largely unremarkable 88-82 win.

It was that Sunday’s nightcap that really put the icing on the cake, as No. 5-seed Michigan State knocking off No. 2-seed Kentucky in a game that featured the most memorable NCAA tournament shot by a player from the losing team this side of Marcus Paige.

This is the quintessential NCAA tournament moment in my mind. The Wildcats were down by three on the final possession when Patrick Sparks airballed a three and Kelenna Azubuike bricked a three of his own before Sparks, getting a long offensive rebound, hit a three that bounced off the rim five times before dropping in. After the officials reviewed whether or not Sparks toe was on the line for roughly ten minutes, the game went to overtime:

After Azubuike missed a potential game-winning three at the end of the first overtime, the Spartans were able to pull away in the second OT.

But that’s not what anyone remembers from this game.

It was the insanity of that final possession in regulation. The bad shots, the hustle plays, the drama and a guy we would never hear from again etching his name into March Madness lore.

ADAM MORRISON’S TEARS

I mentioned Gus Johnson’s greatest moments earlier.

“Batista with the caaaAAATTCHH” is up there, too.

For those that don’t remember, Adam Morrison’s Gonzaga team led No. 2-seed UCLA by 17 points late in the second half of the Sweet 16, but they proceeded to melt away that lead before a J.P. Batista turnover with less than 15 seconds left led to a game-winning bucket from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. That led to one of the iconic images in NCAA tournament history, when Morrison — a National Player of the Year, soon-to-be top three pick and the nation’s leading scorer — was crumped on the court, sobbing.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As another aside, that season was one of the most memorable for me because of the battle between J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison for National Player of the Year. Their battles for the scoring lead and the title of college basketball’s best was to the 2006 season what Trae Young was to 2018 and Zion was to 2019.

And then, in the span on a couple hours, both players were upset in the Sweet 16; Redick’s season ended with a loss to No. 4-seed LSU as Morrison’s final college basketball game was tipping off.

I wrote a long feature about that season four years ago. It’s still one of my favorite pieces.

GEORGE MASON GETS TO THE FINAL FOUR

We’ve seen a number of double-digit seeds and mid-majors make their way to the final weekend of the NCAA tournament in recent years. Loyola-Chicago did it in 2018. Butler make it to the national title game twice. The second time, they beat No. 11-seed VCU in the Final Four the year that VCU started out in the First Four. Wichita State made it to the Final Four as a No. 9-seed.

Each and every one of those runs had their own memorable moments. Butler’s runs catapulted Brad Stevens to the NBA. The same can be said about Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early from Wichita State. Books can be written about Loyola’s Sister Jean and VCU’s band The Peppas and the birth of Havoc.

But the most memorable of those cinderella Final Four runs was the first: George Mason in 2006.

The Patriots were one of the last teams in the NCAA tournament field that year, but they managed to find a way to knock off Michigan State and North Carolina in the first weekend before getting past fellow Cinderella Wichita State in the Sweet 16 for the right to take on UConn, a No. 1-seed that had a chance to win their second title in three years and third title in seven season.

That’s not the way it went down:

UConn has been involved in their fair share of incredible second-weekend moments.

There was Tate George’s shot in 1990, where UConn went 94-feet in 1.0 seconds to beat Clemson in the Sweet 16. There was Rashad Anderson’s shot to tie the game and force overtime in the Sweet 16 two days before the loss to George Mason; UConn erased a five-point lead in the final 40 seconds of that win.

And, of course, there was this insanity in 1998:

BEFORE HE WAS STEPH, “STEVEN” CURRY HAD DAVIDSON A SHOT AWAY FROM FINAL FOUR IMMORTALITY

Back when Davidson was still just an upstart program in the CAA and Curry was just another mid-major gunner whose name no one could properly pronounce yet, he scored 128 points in four games to get his team to within one shot of getting to the Final Four.

And in the end, what people are going to remember is that it was Jason Richards, not Curry, that got the shot that could have ended Bill Self’s only national title run two games early, but what we should remember is how he took over games against Gonzaga and Georgetown, averaging 35 points as the Wildcats erased 11 and 17-point second half deficits, respectively.

It was one of the best individual tournament runs in college basketball history.

THE THREE MOST UNDERRATED GAMES

GREG ODEN’S COMEBACK WIN AGAINST TENNESSEE

The No. 1-seed Buckeyes somehow managed to dig themselves a 49-29 hole late in the first half against Bruce Pearl and No. 5-seed Tennessee in the 2007 Sweet 16, but they came storming back in the second half.

Ron Lewis scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and Greg Oden battled foul trouble the whole game, but it was Oden that saved the day.

His block on the final possession of the game sealed the win:

INDIANA KNOCKS OFF THE DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPS IN RUPP

Duke entered the 2002 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1-seed. They were the No. 1 team in the country in the preseason. They never left the top five throughout the year. They had a roster that featured Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Dahntay Jones, Mike Dunleavy and Chris Duhon. They were considered the favorite to repeat as national champs.

And then, in the Sweet 16 in a game played in Rupp Arena in Lexington, the Blue Devils lost to No. 5-seed Indiana, a team that finished 11-5 in the Big Ten and lost 11 games on the season. Duke jumped out to a 17 points lead and held a 42-29 lead at the half, but led by Jared Jeffries and his 24 points, the Hoosiers came back to win en route to a trip to the national title game.

OKLAHOMA STATE ENDS ST. JOE’S SEASON IN 2004

The 2004 season was to St. Joe’s what the 2020 season was supposed to be for Dayton. The Hawks, led by Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, went undefeated until the Atlantic 10 tournament, earned themselves a No. 1 seed and made it to the Elite Eight, where their season was ended by this shot from John Lucas III:

And that is a fitting way to bring us to …

THE BUZZER BEATER PORTION OF THE PROGRAMMING

LUKE MAYE (WHO?) ENDS KENTUCKY’S SEASON

Before he became an All-American forward for North Carolina, Luke Maye was just some dude with bushy eyebrows on their bench when he capped off this ridiculous sequence to get North Carolina to the 2017 Final Four:

The Tar Heels won the title that season.

BRANDON KNIGHT BEATS AARON CRAFT

I’m sure there are going to be plenty of Kentucky fans that disagree with me here, but my favorite UK moment from the second weekend of the NCAA tournament came in 2011, when Brandon Knight beat Aaron Craft for this game-winning bucket in what was a thrilling final sequence:

The narratives here are what make this so good in my mind.

This was a season after Kentucky got bounced in the Elite Eight with John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and a year before they won the title with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Ohio State was the No. 1 over all seed and the clear favorite to win the national title entering the tournament.

And Kentucky not only got the job done, but I called the upset in my bracket.

Boom.

DANNY AINGE GOES TYUS EDNEY BEFORE TYUS EDNEY

Before Tyus Edney went coast-to-coast to be Missouri in 1995, Danny Ainge did the same for BYU as they knocked off Notre Dame and make it to the 1981 Elite Eight:

Then in 2009, Scottie Reynolds did the same thing to get Villanova past Pitt and into the Final Four:

TREY BURKE’S BOMB BEATS KANSAS

In 2013, the year Michigan made it to the national title game, National Player of the Year Trey Burke hit a 30-footer to force overtime against No. 1-seed Kansas:

HOW DID GRAYSON ALLEN MISS THIS SHOT?

This one felt like karma coming full circle, as Grayson Allen somehow missed this would-be game-winning shot as Duke lost to Kansas in the 2018 Elite Eight. I’ll never understand how this shot didn’t go in:

AND THE BLOWN CALLS

What was the bigger whiff, officials missing this travel on Jeff Green:

or calling this shot from Kenny Anderson good?:

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.