BULLS BEATEN BY 'BAZZ
Huskies defeat South Florida 69-64 in OT
JESS CONDON/The Daily Campus. UConn guard Shabazz Napier leaps in the air for a layup, as the Huskies defeated South Florida 69-64
Sunday's first half against South Florida was far from super. In fact, it was the worst half of the season as UConn managed just 15 points. Junior Shabazz Napier and sophomore Ryan Boatright combined for 41 points as the Huskies rallied back and eventually defeated the Bulls 69-64 in overtime.
This is the second consecutive game Connecticut has won unconventionally in overtime. Last Thursday, the Huskies were out-rebounded by 31 and won 82-79. Sunday, UConn shot just 18 percent in the first half, 30 percent overall.
UConn was better, but not great, on the boards. They were still out-rebounded 43-41 by a undersized USF squad and were outscored 30 to 6 in the paint.
With the victory, UConn improves to 15-5 and 5-3 in the Big East. South Florida, who reached the round of 32 in last season's NCAA Tournament, falls to 10-11 and league-worst 1-8 in the conference.
USF forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick knocked down a pair of three-pointers to give the Bulls an early 12-7 lead. UConn freshman Leon Tolksdorf, who had just played six minutes in the previous eight games, responded with a three.
"Leon has been working his tail off in practice. He deserved some minutes," head coach Kevin Ollie said.
He finished with three points in eight minutes.
With four minutes remaining in the half, Tolksdorf air-balled a wide-open three-point attempt that was saved from going out of bounds by freshman Omar Calhoun. Calhoun got the ball back and missed a three from the corner and a long rebound went to USF's Jawanza Poland, who beat the UConn defense back and slammed home a ten-point Bulls lead.
A minute later, the Huskies had a fast-break chance of their own. Napier and sophomore DeAndre Daniels raced down the floor; Napier baited USF forward Victor Rudd then dished off to Daniels. Rudd was able to make up the ground and cleanly blocked Daniels.
Rudd converted on an acrobatic lay-up as he fell down to give the Bulls a game-high 12-point lead.
Daniels returned the favor and denied Rudd with just three seconds remaining in the half. Boatright got the rebound and banked in a half-court prayer that he let go at least a second after the buzzer had already sounded.
Over the final 9:55 of the first half, South Florida outscored UConn 15-5 and held a 27-15 edge.
"We didn't come out with the attitude we should have come out with," Napier said. "We did a better job in the second half in team defense, team rebounding, and we just played so much together in the second half."
UConn proved how scary of a team they could be in the first three minutes of the first half. The Huskies opened on a 15-2 run and erased the 12-point deficit to gain a 30-29 lead.
The conference foes traded baskets for the next 16 minutes, as there were nine ties and seven lead changes in the second half.
Napier made a pair of free throws to put UConn up 51-50 with 40 seconds remaining. Napier and junior Tyler Olander then forced a turnover that resulted in Boatright making one of two free throws.
South Florida called a timeout to set up a play. USF guard Anthony Collins fooled the defense with a filthy ball-fake and tied the game with a lay-up.
With 11.6 seconds left, Boatright got the ball to Napier on what was suppose to be an isolation play. USF was unexpectedly in a zone defense so Napier forced an unbalanced three and the Huskies were headed to their second overtime in as many games.
Napier would not miss in the extra period. He made all of UConn's field goals, all three-pointers, and scored 11 points to guide the Huskies to their third straight win. Napier finished with 24 points on 7 of 14 field goals including 5 of 10 from three-point land. He also added eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
"He just made remarkable shots," Ollie said. "He's not scared to take that big shot in that big moment."
Next up for the Huskies is their final trip to Madison Square Garden this season as they play at St. John's on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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