March 18, 2005
WORCESTER, Mass. - Senior Gary Johnson scored a career-high 29 points and UCF mounted a furious second half rally, but it was not enough as the Golden Knights fell to Connecticut, 77-71, in first round action at the NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon at the DCU Center. The 15th-seed Golden Knights conclude their season at 24-9 and second-seeded Connecticut (23-7) moves on to face NC State in the second round of the Syracuse Regional.
Johnson sank seven three-pointers, one shy of a school record, and added six rebounds and five assists.
The Huskies, the defending national champions, led by as many as 19 in the second half, but UCF refused to go down. Johnson sparked the late rally with three free throws to cut the lead to 63-49 with 10:36 to play.
When junior Justin Rose excited the crowd with a dunk over Josh Boone, the Golden Knights trailed by 11 with less than nine minutes on the clock.
A pair of foul shots from junior Will Bakanowsky got UCF within six at the 3:36 mark, but Connecticut responded, getting baskets inside from Boone and Charlie Villanueva to make the score 72-62.
Bakanowsky matched a career-best with 15 points and added a team-high seven boards and three steals. He nailed three triples as UCF made 11-of-28 from behind-the-arc.
The Golden Knights stayed close early and trailed by six after Johnson hit a trey seven minutes into the game. Under the 10-minute mark, the Huskies started to pull away. Baskets in the paint by Boone, Rudy Gay and Hilton Armstrong handed Connecticut a 27-16 advantage.
Villanueva hit a long three at the buzzer to give the Huskies a 47-31 lead at halftime.
A layup from senior Kingsley Edwards cut the deficit to five points with 23 seconds to go in the contest, but UCF was forced to foul and Marcus Williams made three of four down the stretch to secure the victory for Connecticut.
Edwards finished with 10 points, five assists and three steals for the Golden Knights. Rose chipped in with nine points off the bench.
Connecticut shot 50 percent from the field, led by a 9-of-13 effort from Villanueva. He finished with 22 points and seven boards. Gay totaled 17 points while Denham Brown and Boone finished with 11 and 10, respectively.