DeAndre Daniels comes through after being benched
Although junior guard Shabazz Napier was relatively quiet in the second half, scoring only five points after hitting three 3-pointers in the first half of UConn's 73-66 win against Cincinnati on Thursday night, he made sure that his presence was known in overtime. Napier nailed three 3-pointers and sunk a pair of free throws to give him 11 points in the extra period, which elevated the Huskies to a 73-66 overtime victory.
"Whenever we need a big shot, he's right there," Head Coach Kevin Ollie said after the win. "He's a leader that has no fear of failure and that's a great thing."
Napier finished the contest with a game-high 27 points (7-14 FG, 6-9 3FG, 7-8 FT), along with three assists and two rebounds.
This isn't the first time Napier has stepped up in overtime for the Huskies this season. In UConn's five overtime games, Napier has 46 points on 9-14 shooting from the floor, including 8-12 from behind the arc. The junior guard is 20-22 from the free throw line in bonus basketball, leading the Huskies to a 4-1 record when games are tied after 40 minutes.
"He likes the big moments," Ollie said of the Huskies' leading scorer. "It's a physiology with him. It's a mind state. In overtime he thinks he can make the shot, and I think he just wills himself to make them."
Ollie believes that Napier deserves Big East Player of the Year recognition for his play this season. Napier, however, doesn't "look for individual awards." Instead of being considered for the annual award, Napier thinks that UConn should be "Big East Team of the Year."
"Without my teammates, I wouldn't be scoring and I wouldn't be doing much," Napier said. "This team is just tremendously intertwined with each other."
DeAndre Steps Up
With freshman guard Omar Calhoun dealing with a wrist injury, it seemed imperative for sophomore forward DeAndre Daniels to have a positive impact on the offensive end in order for UConn to defeat Cincinnati.
Thursday night did not start favorably for Daniels.
On the opening possession, Daniels made a poor defensive gamble leading to an uncontested Cincinnati layup. After the defensive gaffe, Daniels turned the ball over on UConn's subsequent offensive possession, which caused Ollie to bench his starting forward just 1:11 into the contest.
"He took me out and said I needed to lock in and focus, so that's what I did," Daniels said.
After riding the bench for almost four minutes, Daniels returned to the game and things turned around quickly for the Huskies. The Los Angeles native blocked four shots in the first half and ended the night with 17 points (6-10 FG, 3-4 3FG, 2-3 FT), five rebounds and a steal.
Daniels' plus-minus on the night was +11, which means the Huskies scored 11 more points than the Bearcats when the sophomore forward was on the floor.
Ollie believed Daniels' positive attitude after his benching was a sign of maturity.
"The toughness he showed was great," Ollie said. "I pulled him in the first minute, but he took it like a man and that's what this team is all about,"
Sophomore guard Ryan Boatright doesn't believe Daniels would've handled the adversity the same way last season.
"A lot of us have really matured since last year and DeAndre did a great job handling that with his attitude," Boatright said. "More praise to him because he came back in and made a difference when he could have hung his head down and caught an attitude."
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