December 12, 1998
By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Four points down, nine seconds to play in one of the Big East's most hostile environments. Surely, even No. 1 Connecticut couldn't find a way to win.
Huskies coach Jim Calhoun, for reasons he couldn't explain, was convinced they wouldn't lose.
Khalid El-Amin ran down an errant inbounds pass, then drove the lane for the winning basket with two seconds remaining as Connecticut staged a frantic finish to beat No. 20 Pittsburgh 70-69 Saturday.
The Huskies (8-0, 1-0 in Big East) scored five points in the last nine seconds on Albert Mouring's fadeaway 22-foot 3-pointer and El-Amin's shot in the lane to snatch away a victory that jubilant Pitt students were already celebrating.
"Quite frankly, I never felt we would lose the game," Calhoun said. "I thought we had a chance when it was 18 seconds to go and down by four."
Pitt students were surrounding the court for a postgame celebration when Vonteego Cummings, the Panthers' slump-ridden star, threw the inbounds pass away immediately after Mouring's basket and El-Amin ran it down in the backcourt.
El-Amin, who finished with 12 points despite a scoreless first half, then sliced through the middle of the Panthers' defense for the winning points - Connecticut's first lead since 35-34 with 1:18 left in the first half.
"I can have an OK Saturday night now," a relieved Calhoun said. "If you read Pitt's body language early, they were going to beat us. And the crowd? I told our kids that if they thought UMass was hostile, they had no idea."
El-Amin, taunted continuously by Pitt students who constantly pushed their way to courtside, jumped on the scorer's table in jubilation at the end as several Huskies were struck by flying soft drink bottles.
"When I got the ball, there was no play drawn up," El-Amin said. "It's a time when you just have to go out and be a player and make a play, and I made a play. God bless that ball for going in."
Ricky Moore, whose tight defense held Cummings to six points, suffered a cut lip during the confusion at the end, and Calhoun was hit in the head twice by plastic bottles.
"I have the welts to prove it," he said.
The improbable finish - the Huskies trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half - left the stunned Panthers standing on the court in disbelief mere seconds after it seemed they had pulled off their first upset of a No. 1 team in Fitzgerald Field House's 48-year history.
"That was a terrible way to lose a game," said Pitt's Isaac Hawkins, who apparently was supposed to catch the inbounds pass that El-Amin intercepted. Hawkins then missed a desperation halfcourt shot as the game ended.
Coach Ralph Willard said so many players were crying, he didn't deliver a postgame talk.
"It's very difficult for us to handle what happened out there," said Jarrett Lockhart, who scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half. "Guys were crying and we didn't know what to say. We had them this close. We could have beaten the No. 1 team."
The bad pass finished off a bad game for Cummings, who was averaging 18.2 points but scored only six on 2-of-18 shooting. He has been held to 56 points as Pitt (7-4, 0-2) has lost four of five since beating Xavier and Kentucky on consecutive days in the Puerto Rico Shootout.
"I keep say Ricky Moore's one of the best defensive players in the country, but nobody listens," Calhoun said.
Richard Hamilton, who scored 31 in UConn's 92-67 romp over Pitt last season, had 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting, while Mouring and Jake Voskuhl had 10 each for the Huskies, playing their third Top 20 opponent in 12 days.
Pittsburgh went on runs on 11-0, 12-3 and 13-0 to open a 48-35 lead on Attila Cosby's putback early in the second half.
Pittsburgh then answered any time Connecticut tried to rally, going on a 7-2 run to make it 68-62 with 1:55 remaining after UConn had closed within a point.
El-Amin then hit a long 3-pointer from the right wing with 54 seconds remaining. Pitt's Kellii Taylor missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Hamilton traveled following four consecutive UConn missed shots from close range, and it seemed the Huskies were done.
Ricardo Greer, with a chance to wrap it up, made only one of two free throws for a 69-65 Pitt lead with 18 seconds remaining. That allowed Mouring to cut the lead to one with his 3-pointer.
"We made two big mistakes at the end, and they made three great shots," Willard said.
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