Men's Basketball: UConn advances to Round of 32 with overtime win over St. Joseph's
Connecticut's Niels Giffey (5) and Amida Brimah, left, defend Saint Joseph's Ronald Roberts, Jr., center, during the first half of a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Buffalo, N.Y. AP
BUFFALO - Shabazz Napier was cold for 40 minutes, what could have been the last 40 minutes of his UConn career. However, with some help from Amida Brimah, Napier got to overtime, where once again, he thrived.
Napier scored nine points in the extra five minutes, extending his game total to 24 despite shooting 7-for-22, and the Huskies survived a potential upset, advancing to the Round of 32 with an 89-81 win over St. Joseph's at the First Niagara Center.
The senior, UConn's fifth leading scorer all-time, drove to the lane with less than a minute to play and the Huskies down by three. Napier's shot failed to go, but Brimah, who has been inconsistent above the rim this season, grabbed the offensive rebound and got the put-back and the foul, converting the free throw to send the game to overtime.
"He showed a lot of maturity and a lot of heart for that possession," Ryan Boatright said. "Man, for him to make that play and just for him to go to the line, he knew he was going to make it. He went to the line with the swag and all of that. He went to the line and knocked it down. It was a big play for us."
It was an unordinary first half for Napier, scoring only five points on 2 of 8 shooting. Napier's cold hand on offense, coupled with the Huskies' inability to slow the Hawks down on the defensive end, led to a 40-35 St. Joseph's lead at halftime.
Napier was only 4 of 12 in the second half, but he continued to drive to the rim and make plays to get UConn back in the game.
"My teammates helped me, they willed me like they have the whole season," Napier said. "Guys be telling me, 'Shabazz keep going, keep shooting, make the next shot.' They willed me. I was fortunate to make a lot of shots in the second half. But it wasn't about what I did in the second half. It's about what everyone that stepped on the court did."
Napier had a chance to win the game in the final 2.7 seconds after DeAndre Daniels forced a turnover at the other end. His running attempt from the 3-point line bounced off the back of the rim and bounced away, resulting in overtime.
"At the end of the day," Napier said. "I've been playing basketball since I was five and a half," Napier said. "Just because I missed two shots, three shots doesn't mean I'm not going to take the next one with a lot of confidence."
Daniels was able to keep UConn in the game until Napier began heating up. The junior wingman was 3 of 5 in the second half, including a 3-pointer that gave the Huskies a 67-66 lead with 2:09 to play. He finished with 18 points, making six of his 11 shots and three of his six attempts from behind the arc.
But it was the little plays Daniels made, despite his defensive struggles throughout, that made the difference. After Brimah tied the game in the final minute, Daniels stood tall on the other end, making a block on a corner jumper from Langston Galloway, who led the Hawks with 25 points.
"Sooner or later, you're just gonna have to man up and win your individual battle," head coach Kevin Ollie said, "and that's what they started doing, and it really gave us an opportunity to start getting some momentum on the offensive end."
UConn advances to the Round of 32 with Thursday's victory, where the Huskies will meet an old Big East foe, Villanova, with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen at Madison Square Garden on the line.
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