UConn survives, beats Auburn in 2OT at Battle 4 Atlantis

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Shot after shot, No. 19 Auburn and No. 22 Connecticut went back and forth at each other seemingly oblivious to pressure from a dwindling clock in an ever-lengthening game at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

It may have been an early season tournament, but it felt like a March-esque thriller — right up to the second overtime when Tyler Polley and Adama Sonogo helped the Huskies finally wrestle away a 115-109 double-overtime victory in Wednesday’s first round.

“Pretty good tip for November, right?” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said.

Indeed, the first two-overtime game in the event’s 10-year history had plenty: big shots, clutch responses, frenetic sequences, even players diving on the floor for a loose rebound in the final seconds of a two-possession game with the outcome decided.

Exhausting? Chaotic? Thrilling? UConn coach Dan Hurley would choose all of the above.

“Now you have a chance to sit back and think about how many different ways it could’ve went the other way in regulation, or really from the five-minute mark all the way through to the second overtime,” Hurley said. “Just a multitude of things that went on that were mind-boggling, mind-numbing.”

UConn forward Tyler Polley is congratulated by coach Dan Hurley after making a 3-pointer against Auburn in the second overtime of an NCAA college basketball game at Paradise Island, Bahamas, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.
UConn forward Tyler Polley is congratulated by coach Dan Hurley after making a 3-pointer against Auburn.
AP

Polley scored a career-high 24 points and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:58 left in the second overtime, and had also hit a 3-pointer for the lead with 12.5 seconds left in regulation. He finished 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

Sanogo had a career-best 30 points and stayed on the floor despite playing critical late minutes with four fouls for the Huskies (5-0), who blew a 15-point lead in regulation and squandered a lead late in the first overtime. But the two combined for UConn’s first 14 points of the second overtime as UConn finally pushed ahead for good.

“I definitely thought numerous times we could’ve had the game won,” said R.J. Cole, who had 24 points for UConn. “They weren’t going to go without a fight and we knew that. So we continued to just talk to each other and keep pushing, knowing that it’s not going to be easy and we’re going to have to fight for this one to get the win.”

UConn guard R.J. Cole celebrates with teammates after scoring during a game against Auburn in the 2021 Battle 4 Atlantis at Imperial Arena.
UConn guard R.J. Cole celebrates with teammates after scoring during a game against Auburn.
USA TODAY Sports

K.D. Johnson and top freshman Jabari Smith had their own huge performances for the Tigers (3-1). Johnson scored 23 of his career-high 27 points after halftime, including driving baskets in the final seconds of regulation and the first overtime to extend the game.

“I was just trying to do anything to get a W,” Johnson said. “I wasn’t really focused on anything, how it was going. I was just trying to get a win.”