Early Saturday Hoops: No. 5 Syracuse Falls, No. 10 UConn Wins, Gonzaga Wins OT Thriller

The Bulldogs blew a big first half lead, but topped Illinois anyway. Arizona picked up their first Pac-10 win over UCLA.

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Bruins Nation: Not Many Positives In Loss

Bruins Nation, SB Nation's UCLA blog, says there weren't a lot of positives in the Bruins' loss to Arizona Saturday afternoon. The first twenty minutes, in particular, stand as another example of the team's struggles.

While true that the Bruins were able to hold serve against the Wildcats in the second half, the performance in the first half rivaled Mississippi State as the worst stretch of basketball played by the Bruins this season. 21% Shooting from the field together with 8 turnovers and a 27-15 advantage on the boards by Arizona led to a 35-20 halftime deficit that the Bruins could not overcome.

In many ways, it was the reverse of UCLA's win Thursday over Arizona State, when the Bruins looked like worldbeaters in the first half, then collapsed and nearly lost the game in the second. 

There will be lots of discussion on Bruins Nation about the state of Ben Howland's team over the next few days. UCLA next goes on the road to play the Bay Area schools next Thursday and Saturday.

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Arizona 77, UCLA 63: Kyle Fogg Powers Wildcats To Win

Read more at our UCLA blog, Bruins Nation, and our Arizona blog, Arizona Desert Swarm.

January 2, 2010 - Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) - Kyle Fogg poured in a career-high 25 points to help propel the Arizona Wildcats to a 77-63 win over the UCLA Bruins in Pac-10 play at Pauley Pavilion.

Jamelle Horne added 17 points for the Wildcats (7-7, 1-1 Pac-10), who notch their first league win while also picking up their first road win of the season. Derrick Williams tallied 16 points and nine rebounds for Arizona.

Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll each scored 15 to lead the Bruins (6-8, 1-1), who saw their win streak snapped at three games. Nikola Dragovic had 11 points in the loss, while Reeves Nelson finished with 10 points and eight boards.

UCLA shot a dismal 5-of-24 from the floor in the first half, which included 0- of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, as Arizona claimed a 35-20 halftime advantage.

The Wildcats sealed it with a 55.6-percent effort from the floor in the second stanza, as they led by double digits the rest of the way.

Arizona has now won two straight in the head-to-head series after losing its previous eight meetings with UCLA.

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Slipper Still Fits: Catching Our Breath After A Thriller In Chicago

Our Gonzaga blog, The Slipper Still Fits, is recovering from the Bulldogs' wild win over Illinois.

We have come to expect insane things with this Gonzaga team but this is really in a whole new realm. Gonzaga led by 21 early, fell asleep in the middle of the game, and finally woke up in time to steal a win from Illinois in Chicago.

Zach has a few pluses and minuses on his mind after such a rollercoaster game, head on over to check them out.

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Gonzaga 85, Illinois 83 (OT): Illini Fall Short After Big Comeback

Read more at our Bulldog blog, The Slipper Still Fits, and our Illini blog, Hail To The Orange.

January 2, 2010 - Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Elias Harris hit a jumper with 12 seconds remaining in overtime, lifting the Gonzaga Bulldogs to a thrilling 85-83 win over the Illinois Fighting Illini in a non-league tilt at the United Center.

Harris finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds for Gonzaga (11-3). Steven Gray registered a team-high 20 points to help push the Bulldogs' win streak to three games. Robert Sacre also scored 19, while Matt Bouldin finished with 18 points, nine boards and seven assists in the win.

Dominique Keller had a game-high 22 points off the bench to go along with nine boards for the Fighting Illini (9-5), who were coming off Wednesday night's overtime win against Northwestern. Demetri McCamey scored 20, Brandon Paul added 17 points, and Mike Davis finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in a losing effort.

Gonzaga raced out to a commanding 32-11 lead on a jumper by Sacre at the 10:39 mark of the first half. However, Illinois was able to withstand the charge and eventually cut the deficit to 43-35 at halftime.

The Illini tied the score at 45 on a three-pointer by Paul two minutes into the second half, and they led by as many as eight with 10:36 remaining in regulation. Gonzaga took a 79-76 lead after Gray hit a pair of free throws with 22 seconds remaining. On the other end, Keller forced overtime on a three-pointer with nine seconds to play, which was made possible thanks to a key offensive rebound by Davis.

Illinois shot 0-of-6 from the floor in the extra session. After Harris put Gonzaga ahead on a jumper with 12 seconds to play, Paul missed a potential game-winning three for Illinois in the final seconds.

Gonzaga shot 55.9 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, the Illini struggled to find their range, as they connected on only 4-of-24 three-pointers for the game.

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Nunes Magician: Those Blasted Panthers

Sean Keeley over at SB Nation's Syracuse blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, writes in his postgame recap that even though the Orange came in unbeaten and highly regarded, it was more of the same in their loss to Pitt Saturday afternoon.

The Panthers have now beaten the Orange 12 of 15 times since 2001 and six of the last seven times they've played in the Dome. No active Syracuse Orange player has ever beaten Pitt.

Sean lays a lot of the blame for the loss on the officials, who decided to not let the teams play. The fact the Orange didn't shoot the three ball well and got lax on defense didn't help either. 

Jim Boeheim's squad still has a lot to work on despite a great start to the season.

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No. 10 UConn 82, Notre Dame 70: Stanley Robinson Trumps Luke Harangody

Read more at our Fighting Irish blog, Rakes of Mallow.

January 2, 2010 - Hartford, CT (Sports Network) - Stanley Robinson scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, as 10th-ranked Connecticut earned an 82-70 win over Notre Dame in a Big East showdown at XL Center.

Jerome Dyson turned in a solid performance with 20 points and 10 assists, while Gavin Edwards finished with 13 points for Connecticut (10-3, 1-1 Big East), which opened Big East play with a 71-69 loss at Cincinnati on Wednesday. The Huskies have won four of their last five overall. Kemba Walker had 11 points and 10 assists, but committed six turnovers.

Luke Harangody led all scorers with 31 points to go along with nine boards for Notre Dame (12-3, 1-1), which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Ben Hansbrough and Tyrone Nash ended with 14 and 11 points, respectively.

UConn took a 34-32 lead into the second half and the game stayed tight until the Huskies started to pull away with nearly 7 1/2 minutes left.

Robinson's layup put UConn ahead by five, 61-56, and ignited a 7-0 run. The Huskies' lead was 72-62 with just over 2 1/2 minutes to play after another Robinson layup, and the Irish were unable to threaten the outcome in the remaining time.

Notre Dame maintained a slim lead in the early going, but UConn fought back to grab a 16-15 edge on Robinson's fastbreak layup near the midway point.

Both teams took turns exchanging the lead throughout the rest of the first half, and Robinson's layup in the final minute helped the Huskies take a two- point edge at the break.

UConn improved to 16-6 in the all-time series with Notre Dame thanks to wins in each of the last four matchups. The Huskies have now won seven of eight meetings in Hartford, including the last five...UConn improved to 9-0 at home this season.

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Pitt 82, No. 5 Syracuse 72: One Less Unbeaten

Read more at our Orange blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.

January 2, 2010 - Syracuse, NY (Sports Network) - Ashton Gibbs shot 6-of-9 from three-point range en route to a game-high 24 points, as Pittsburgh removed fifth-ranked Syracuse from the ranks of the unbeaten with an 82-72 victory at the Carrier Dome.

Gibbs added eight rebounds for the Panthers (12-2, 2-0 Big East), who have won five straight and eight of their last nine contests overall. Jermaine Dixon contributed a career-high 21 points and recorded five steals as Pittsburgh notched its fourth consecutive win on Syracuse's home court.

Brad Wanamaker finished with 12 points, six assists and five boards in the win.

Wes Johnson had 19 points and six rebounds for the Orange (13-1, 1-1), who got 15 points from Scoop Jardine.

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