Napier excels against Rutgers despite injury
Published: Sunday, January 27, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 27, 2013 23:01
In the days leading up to Sunday afternoon’s contest against Rutgers, all eyes were on Shabazz Napier and his left shoulder, which he injured on January 14 against Louisville. He quickly answered any concerns about his health and had an impressive afternoon, leading UConn to the 66-54 victory. With the win, UConn improved to 13-5 on the season and 3-3 in Big East conference play.
“I wasn’t thinking too much about my shoulder throughout the game,” Napier said. I was just excited about how well we were playing defense and just going out there and trying my best and make my shots.”
Napier was honored before the game with a brief ceremony for becoming the 47th player in program history to score 1,000 career points. The star point guard finished with a team- high 19 points, six assists, and five rebounds in 36 minutes.
“The game is slow to him,” said Rutgers head coach Mike Rice. “When he wants to go fast, he goes fast. When he wants to get a shot, he gets a shot. He doesn’t rush things. From last year he has really matured his approach and how he runs his team.”
In addition to Napier’s strong outing, the Huskies saw significant contributions from several other members as well, including Ryan Boatright (15 points), Deandre Daniels (13 points, seven rebounds), and Omar Calhoun (eight points). They also get a much-needed boost off the bench from Niels Giffey, whose inspired play in an otherwise lackluster start to the second half kept his team- and the crowd- in the game.
UConn came out of the break in an immense offensive drought, missing their first nine shots and allowing Rutgers to come back from their seven-point halftime deficit. With just under ten minutes to play and the game tied at 32, Giffey stole the ball and converted a three-point play after being fouled on the ensuing layup. With the lead and momentum, UConn did not look back and cruised to the victory.
“When I look up ‘versatility’ in the dictionary, I see Niels Giffey,” said UConn head coach Kevin Ollie. “Whether I call on him to play the two, the three, or the one, he just steps up and does it. I love him to death and he played an excellent game.”
Napier agreed with his coach, singing the praises of the 6’7” forward out of Germany, who finished the afternoon with seven points, three rebounds and four steals.
“Giffey is always that guy who is going to give us a spark no matter what. He comes off the bench and is ready to play. He could be starting, but he understands that he needs to be a guy coming off the bench and he enjoys that role. He’s an all out effort guy and we need those people.”
UConn returns to action on Thursday night when they travel to Providence to take on the Friars. The Big East showdown will tip off at 7 pm.