Buzzer-beaters, heartbreak and championship: A look at UConn men’s basketball most memorable NCAA Tournament games

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Shawn McFarland, Hartford Courant
·4 min read
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For the first time in five years, the UConn men’s basketball team is back in the NCAA Tournament.

Ahead of Saturday’s first-round game between the seventh-seeded Huskies and No. 10 Maryland at 7:10 p.m. on CBS, here’s a look at some of UConn’s most memorable NCAA Tournament games and moments.

1964: Huskies upset powerhouse Princeton

In the Sweet 16, UConn pulled a major upset against Princeton, a national power in the 1960s. Dom Perno, the future Huskies’ coach, made two free throws to put UConn ahead, then with 17 seconds left stole the ball from Bill Bradley, the top player in the country, to seal the 52-50 victory. Bradley went on to win two NBA titles with the Knicks, make both the college and Naismith Halls of Fame and serve in the U.S. Senate.

1976: Overtime win positions Huskies for future success

Dee Rowe’s Huskies rallied from 16 points down to defeat Hofstra in overtime, 80-78, in a first-round game to reach the Sweet 16. The Huskies lost to Rutgers in the next round, but this appearance on the national stage helped UConn earn an invitation to join the Big East when it was formed a couple of years later.

1990: Tate George personifies “The Dream Season”

The 1990 season, known best as “the Dream Season,” lifted UConn onto the national stage. The Huskies started the season unranked, but went 25-5 in the regular season, won the Big East Tournament and were a top seed. They dispatched Boston College and Cal in the first two rounds, then against No. 5 Clemson in the Sweet Sixteen, the miracle Huskies and senior Tate George had their signature moment.

Trailing by a point in the final moments, Scott Burrell threw a full-court pass to George, who turned around with one second left and launched a 15-foot jump shot that went in as time expired and sent the Huskies to the Elite Eight.

1990: Christian Laettner sinks UConn in overtime

After George’s buzzer-beater saved UConn’s dream season, another late shot would end it. Against No. 3 Duke in the Elite Eight, the Huskies trailed by seven at halftime, but rallied in the second half to send the game into overtime.

It was Duke and Christian Laettner that would have the last laugh. Trailing by a point in the final seconds, Laettner drained a 14-footer at the buzzer to eliminate the Huskies.

1999: A first Final Four, and a first title

The Huskies made three Elite Eights in the 1990s, but couldn’t crack through to the Final Four.

Until 1999.

Again at top after losing just two games all season and winning the Big East Tournament, UConn — led by Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin — beat UTSA, Iowa, New Mexico State and Gonzaga to advance to the program’s first Final Four.

In the semifinals, the Huskies downed No. 4 Ohio State, 64-58. Against Duke in the national championship game the Huskies won their first title, 77-74, snapped Duke’s 32-game winning streak, and cemented the program as a true college basketball powerhouse.

2004: UConn vs. Duke, Part III, and a second title

Five years later UConn and Duke faced off again— this time with a trip to the title game on the line.

It was the Huskies, again, who prevailed, with Emeka Okafor playing hero this time. Despite foul trouble, Okafor finished with 18 points and seven rebounds to lead a late comeback and a 79-78 win against the Blue Devils in the Final Four.

The Huskies — led by seven players who would later be drafted into the NBA, including Okafor and Ben Gordon — then beat No. 3 Georgia Tech 82-73 to win the program’s second title.

2011: UConn wins 11 in a row, returns to the top

Let’s just call this the “Kemba Walker Year.”

The junior guard’s game-winning shot against Pitt in the Big East Tournament became iconic. It was the third game of an 11-game win streak that stretched from the first round of the conference tournament all the way to the national championship, where UConn won its third with a 53-41 victory over eighth-seeded Butler.

Walker, who was drafted into the NBA later that spring, averaged 23.5 points, six rebounds and over five assists in the NCAA Tournament.

2014: Under Ollie, Huskies still victorious

Led by AAC player of the year Shabazz Napier and second-year head coach Kevin Ollie, the Huskies made history, and became the first seventh seed to win a national championship. They did so by running through No. 2 Villanova in the round of 32, No. 3 Iowa State in the Sweet Sixteen, No. 4 Michigan State in the Elite Eight and No. 1 Florida in the Final Four.

The battle-tested Huskies beat No. 8 Kentucky 60-54 in the championship game for a fourth title.

Shawn McFarland can be reached at