- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Connecticut’s only worry was the health of its ailing coach.

With or without Jim Calhoun, Chattanooga never stood a chance at pulling off the monumental 16-1 upset. The Mocs nearly made history, though, only of the infamous kind.

Just think, if Calhoun was on the bench instead of in the hospital, it could have even been worse for Chattanooga.

The Huskies won this one for Calhoun, getting 20 points apiece from A.J. Price and Hasheem Thabeet to give top-seeded Connecticut a 103-47 rout over Chattanooga on Thursday.

It was the third-largest blowout in NCAA tournament history.

“I think we would have been more fired up if Coach was here,” Price said. “Chattanooga actually got off easy, I think, by Coach not being here today.”

The Huskies (28-4) hope to have Calhoun back for Saturday’s game against Texas A&M; in a second-round game of the West Regional. The Hall of Fame coach was kept overnight for observation and will be re-evaluated Friday morning.

Associate head coach George Blaney said Calhoun spoke with the team via speakerphone after the game, telling the players he expected to be back with them very shortly.

“He told us it was a great performance,” Price said. “He was upbeat about everything. He told us he couldn’t wait to join us again. We can’t wait to have him back.”

While the Huskies surely missed the Hall of Famer on the sideline, they perhaps could take comfort in this: This is the third NCAA tournament game Calhoun has missed. In the two previous instances, UConn went on to win the national title.

“He’s our leader, our general,” Price said. “We were just anxious to know that he was OK, going to be OK and be able to come back later in the tournament. He is going to be with us Saturday.”

The only wins by bigger margins were Loyola of Chicago’s 111-42 win over Tennessee Tech in the first round in 1963, and Kansas’ 110-52 victory over Prairie View in the first round in 1998.

“We’ve been telling this team all along that they’re really good,” Blaney said. “I think they’ve had some trouble with that. I think they haven’t believed as much as we’ve believed.

The Huskies, who stumbled to a 4-3 finish, had to make believers of everyone they were worthy of the No. 1 seed.

Kevin Goffney scored 15 points for the Southern Conference champion Mocs (18-17), who shot a woeful 26 percent.

“The offense didn’t go like we wanted,” Goffney said. “It’s a bad night for that to happen.”

If UConn’s thumping was the dud of the four games in Philadelphia, UCLA needed to wait until the very last play of the last of the four games to win a thriller over Virginia Commonwealth. The Bruins escaped with a 65-64 win in the East Regional to keep their bid for a fourth straight Final Four alive.

VCU’s Eric Maynor was an NCAA tournament hero two years ago when he sank a 15-footer with 1.8 seconds left to knock off Duke. This time, Maynor missed a 17-footer at the buzzer that would have given the Rams (24-10) the win.

“We knew he was going to get the ball,” UCLA’s Darren Collison said. “I mean, that’s what’s been happening all day long.”

He just came up short. Maynor was closely guarded by Collison and couldn’t get a clean look. His shot grazed the front of the rim and time ran out.

“They knocked me off track a little bit,” Maynor said. “I rushed it.”

VCU’s loss meant a big ‘L’ in President Barack Obama’s bracket. Obama picked the Rams (24-10) to pull off the upset.

In the East Regional, Villanova used a huge late run to beat American 80-67, and Texas A&M; beat BYU in the first game of the tournament for the second straight year, 79-66 in the West Regional.

Villanova 80, American 67, East Regional

Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham each scored 25 points, and Villanova rallied back from a 14-point hole.

The third-seeded Wildcats (27-7) needed a late 19-2 run to fend off the Patriot League champions.

The 14th-seeded Eagles (24-8) sizzled from 3-point range early and pushed Villanova to the brink of a monumental upset. They just didn’t have enough left in their tired legs down the stretch, and had their 13-game winning streak snapped.

Garrison Carr scored 22 points, Derrick Mercer had 17 and Brian Gilmore 16 for American, whose senior starters not only wanted to leave it all on the floor, they rarely left the floor. Mercer played 40 minutes and Carr (37) and Gilmore (36) were right behind.

The Wildcats play UCLA on Saturday.

Texas A&M; 79, BYU 66, West Regional

It was like deja-lose all over again for BYU.

Bryan Davis scored 21 points, Donald Sloan had 14 and the ninth-seeded Aggies handed the Cougars their seventh straight opening-round loss in a rematch from last year. Both teams drew the same seeds last March when A&M; won 67-62.

Jimmer Fredette scored 18 and Lee Cummard added 17 for BYU (25-8).

A&M; (24-9) made its first 10 shots and built a 22-7 lead less than eight minutes in. Davis had eight of those 22 on three mid-range jumpers and a reverse layup.

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