Freshman Lance Stephenson was fouled with less than a second left and made both free throws last night, rallying host Cincinnati to a 71-69 victory over No. 10 Connecticut in a wild Big East opener for both teams.
Cincinnati (9-3) had lost all five previous games against UConn (9-3). The Bearcats led by 11 points before the Huskies made a late run, tying it on Kemba Walker's three-pointer with 9.4 seconds to go.
Stephenson dribbled into the lane and was fouled by Gavin Edwards as the buzzer sounded. After a review, the officials put seventh-tenths of a second on the clock, Stephenson went to the line and made both, finishing with 21 points.
"All I was thinking was let me go to the free-throw line because I knew I was going to knock them down," said Stephenson, who finished 7-for-7 from the line.
Edwards was surprised to draw the whistle on the deciding play.
"It was a tough call," Edwards said. "There was a lot going on on that play. He ran into me. I didn't come down into his arm."
All that UConn could do was hope that time had run out before the whistle blew. When the clock was reset to 0.7, all the Huskies could do was hope Stephenson would feel like a freshman in a big game.
Jerome Dyson scored 24 points and Stanley Robinson added 22 for UConn.
The Bearcats knew it would come down to their front line. In Cincinnati's wins over then-ranked Vanderbilt and Maryland, the front line dominated the boards. In other games, it got shoved around. This time, it held its own.
Deonta Vaughn, who went through a 3-for-23 shooting slump from behind the arc, made consecutive threes that started a 12-2 run and put the Bearcats ahead 30-18. Vaughn yelled and pumped his fist after the second 3, showing his confidence was back.
Robinson had a basket and a three-point play during a 9-0 run that got it down to 30-27 and turned it into a back-and-forth game. Neither team got into an offensive flow in the half, which ended with Cincinnati ahead, 36-35.
Vaughn had 10 points, matching his high for any opening half this season, and finished with a season-high 17.
Vaughn hit another three during a nine-point run that rebuilt the lead to 47-37 early in the second half. The Huskies managed only one basket during the opening 5:26 of the half, going 1-for-9 with three turnovers during that span.
The Bearcats led, 61-50, with 8:10 left when UConn made its last surge behind Dyson, who scored 10 points during a spurt that cut it to 67-63 with 2:27 to go.
In other games:
* At North Carolina, Ed Davis had 18 points to help the No. 9 Tar Heels beat Albany, 87-70. Deon Thompson added 15 points for the UNC (11-3), which played without fifth-year senior Marcus Ginyard and sophomore Justin Watts, both with ankle injuries.
* At Virginia, Sylven Landesberg scored 19 points and had two free throws and two key assists in the final 2:36 as Virginia (7-4) ended No. 24 UAB's 10-game winning streak with a 72-63 victory. The Blazers (11-2) got 27 points and 11 rebounds from Elijah Millsap.
* At Michigan State, Durrell Summers had 20 points to lead the No. 11 Spartans (10-3) to an 87-68 win over Texas-Arlington.
* At Notre Dame, Jonathan Peoples scored a career-high 23 points to lead the Fighting Irish (12-2, 1-0 Big East) to a 93-78 victory over Providence. Coach Mike Brey won his 200th game in 10 seasons at Notre Dame (200-103).
* At Illinois, Mike Tisdale had 31 points and 11 rebounds and the Illini (9-4) beat No. 25 Northwestern, 89-83, in overtime in the teams' Big Ten opener. John Shurna had 27 points for the Wildcats (10-2), who moved into the rankings on Monday for the first time since January 1969 when the poll was still a Top 20.
In women's games:
* At Xavier, Allison Hightower scored 18 points, leading No. 11 Louisiana State (11-1) to a 56-47 victory over the 15th-ranked Musketeers (9-3) for coach Van Chancellor's 500th victory.
* At James Madison, Dawn Evans had 28 points and nine assists to lead the No. 25 Dukes (10-1) to a 74-65 win over Western Michigan in the championship game of the JMU Invitational.