UConn comes from behind to beat South Flordia
The late-game heroics of Shabazz Napier are becoming an increasingly common occurrence for the UConn men's basketball game, and Sunday afternoon's victory against USF was no exception.
When the dust had cleared from one of their worst halves in recent memory, UConn found themselves trailing 27-15 to the Bulls, who fell to 1-8 in Big East play and 10-11 overall. The Huskies had more turnovers (six) than they did field goals (five) and were shooting a remarkably low 5-27 (.185) from the floor. Ryan Boatright buried a half court heave in the final seconds of the nightmarish half. Fittingly, it was waved off by the refs, and the Huskies left a depleted Gampel Pavilion crowd to go into the locker room where head coach Kevin Ollie was faced with the task of waking his team up.
"We didn't have any effort or energy," said junior Tyler Olander of his team's effort in the first half. "(Coach Ollie) basically said that it was embarrassing the way we were playing. We haven't played at Gampel in about a month, and to come out in front of our fans and play like that... We are lucky they stayed for the second half."
If any fans had elected to leave at halftime after the lackluster first twenty minutes, they would have missed quite a performance. UConn came storming out of the gates, scoring the first ten points of the half after that and after three and a half minutes and a 15-2 run, they had equalized their first half total in points and taken a 30-29 lead. Neither team was able to break away from the other and after a Napier miss at the buzzer, the game entered overtime, where Napier stole the show.
The point guard hit three three-pointers en route to scoring 11 of his game high 24 points in overtime. Behind Napier's well-timed three-point barrage, the Huskies were able to hold off the Bulls.
"Shabazz made some remarkable shots," said Ollie. "He has that belief in himself and that certainty that when he shoots it, it is going to go in. He is not afraid to miss, and that is a great attribute of him."
"I'm willing to take the big shots, make or miss," said Napier. "I was lucky to knock them down."
The Huskies were outrebounded in the game 43-41, which in itself can be considered a success for UConn, a team that has struggled with their rebounding numbers throughout the season. Never was this more glaringly apparent than last Thursday at Providence, when they were outrebounded 55-24 by the Friars.
The Huskies were able to rebound the ball well despite foul trouble by forward Deandre Daniels, who was held to 26 minutes. Napier had eight rebounds, Daniels had six, and three Huskies, Olander, Ryan Boatright, and Omar Calhoun contributed with five apiece.
With the comeback win, UConn improved to 15-5 on the season, and 5-3 in conference play. They will next be in action on Wednesday night when they travel to Madison Square Garden to take on St. Johns.
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