TAMPA — De'Jon Jackson's plan was to take the ball straight to the basket, but the 6-foot-1 San Diego sophomore saw Connecticut's 7-3 shot-swatting center Hasheem Thabeet hanging inside.
In so many ways, Jackson and the Toreros knew they didn't measure up to the Big East bullies Friday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
But a mismatch it wasn't.
Not even the Huskies' skyscraping Thabeet can look down on San Diego now. Rather than risk a rejection, Jackson pulled up and sank an 18-foot jumper with 1.2 seconds left in overtime to give 13th seeded San Diego a 70-69 upset of No. 4 Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA Tournament West Region.
Jackson, 1-of-8 before his big shot, got the in-bounds pass with 5.2 seconds left, dribbled right and drained the fadeaway over the Huskies' 6-9 sophomore Stanley Robinson.
"I put on the board, 'Don't let them think, don't let them get a sniff that we're two equal teams,' " UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "Whether we are or not, I put that down about a lot of teams.
"…We took a two-point lead, but by that point, now you take a chance on a kid making a shot like he made and we give him all kinds of credit for it. I'm sure he's going to remember it for the rest of his life, as well he should. It was a hell of a play."
The second buzzer-beater in as many games was the first NCAA Tournament win for the Toreros (22-13), who play No. 12 Western Kentucky Sunday in the second round.
And UConn was sent packing much sooner than expected. The Huskies hadn't lost in the first round since 1979 and never in Calhoun's 22 seasons (this was his 15th appearance).
Jackson seemed like an unlikely choice for the winning shot but the Toreros' leading scorers, Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare, fouled out in overtime. Pomare led San Diego with 22 points and Johnson battled leg cramps to finish with 18 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Huskies had one final chance but Jackson intercepted the inbounds pass and was mobbed at midcourt.
"You know, I've been saying this all year about De'Jon Jackson," San Diego coach Bill Grier said. "He's the glue and he's a winner. You know, he does the little things that help us win games that don't necessarily show up in stats. Yet I knew when the ball was in his hands there at the end he was going to make a play to win the game for us and he certainly stepped up and did that."
The winner went pretty much as Grier designed it, except Jackson pulled up for the jumper.
"I kind of saw (Thabeet) dropping, and I was like, 'I can't go in there because he's been blocking everything,' " Jackson said. "So I needed a step back and that was the play."
UConn lost All-Big East point guard A.J. Price with 9:39 left in the first half and the score tied. Calhoun said doctors fear Price may have sustained an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament (see notebook).
Calhoun said Price's absence wasn't the reason for defeat. Rather, he pointed to the Huskies' lack of defensive pressure, especially in the first half. The Toreros shot 47 percent for the game.
SAN DIEGO (22-13): Pomare 10-12 2-2 22, Jones 7-15 0-1 14, B.Johnson 7-19 0-0 18, T.Johnson 4-6 0-0 8, Jackson 2-9 0-0 4, Ginty 0-1 2-4 2, Price 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 0-0 0-0 0, Houston 1-3 0-0 2, Lozeau 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-65 4-7 70.
CONNECTICUT (24-9): Adrien 8-16 1-2 18, Robinson 2-6 1-1 6, Thabeet 5-10 4-7 14, Price 0-1 0-0 0, Austrie 3-9 4-4 10, Beverly 0-0 0-0 0, Wiggins 2-5 0-0 5, Dyson 4-9 6-6 14, Edwards 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 25-58 16-20 69.
Halftime—San Diego 34-29. End Of Regulation—Tied 60. 3-Point Goals—San Diego 4-12 (B.Johnson 4-8, T.Johnson 0-1, Ginty 0-1, Jackson 0-2), Connecticut 3-6 (Adrien 1-1, Wiggins 1-1, Robinson 1-2, Dyson 0-1, Austrie 0-1). Fouled Out—B.Johnson, Pomare. Rebounds—San Diego 31 (Jones 6), Connecticut 41 (Adrien 12). Assists—San Diego 13 (T.Johnson 5), Connecticut 14 (Wiggins 5). Total Fouls—San Diego 21, Connecticut 16. A—15,920.