Basketball:Without Daniels Huskies defeat Houston
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 01:01
Four players scored in double figures, with Shabazz Napier’s 19 points to lead all, as UConn routed Houston 80-43 Thursday night in front of a crowd of 9,312 at Gampel Pavilion to improve to 17-4 overall and 5-3 in the American Athletic Conference.
“It’s much easier for me,” Napier said on the effect of collective scoring. “When I’m the only guy scoring, it’s tough. I don’t like it. I hate it because the most time that happens, it’s always close game. When everybody is scoring double digits, it just shows how good we are if we come together and play together.”
The Huskies jumped out to a 16-3 lead just five minutes into the contest and never looked back.
“That was a great game by us,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Team effort. We came out and played right out of the gate.”
Not a revenge game
The Huskies dropped their conference opener against the Cougars, 75-71, in Houston on New Year’s Eve, but Ollie insisted that this was not a “revenge game.”
“We just wanted to show Houston that we were a better team,” Ollie said. “That was the only goal we had in mind… They ruined my New Year’s. Now we just ruined their Chinese New Year’s.”
Daniels sits out with ankle injury
Though DeAndre Daniels said he was “definitely going to play the next game no matter what” following the UConn’s win over the Rutgers last Saturday in which he suffered a high ankle sprain, the junior forward sat out Thursday night’s game and senior Niels Giffey was inserted into the starting lineup instead.
“DeAndre is a competitor. Everybody has seen that at the RAC when he came back in,” Ollie said. “He wanted to play and I listened to [team trainer] James Doran. He was trying to get [Daniels] right, but he just wasn’t to the point where we thought he could be effective and we just went with Niels.”
The Huskies had little trouble getting past the Cougars Thursday night without Daniels, but his presence in the lineup is something they can’t afford to miss.
“He’s the best player on our team,” Napier said. “When he plays the way he’s supposed to play, he just looks tremendous out there and makes it easier for everybody.”
Ollie is “hopeful” that Daniels will be ready for Cincinnati next Thursday.
“If he’s not ready, then we’re going to go [into the bench],” Ollie said. “We got enough in that locker room no matter who’s out.”
Nolan provides spark off the bench and on the glass
Phil Nolan came off the bench at the 16:40 mark in the first half and immediately made an impact on the game.
The sophomore forward hit his first four shots and scored six consecutive points for the Huskies during a stretch in the first half.
“I think that dunk got him going in the beginning,” Ollie said. “And that’s what good point guards do. Ryan [Boatright] was punching it, and if you get the big guy in it early, and you get them a dunk, their whole world changes. Their energy goes up.”
Nolan finished the game with 10 points, just one shy of his career-high.
The Huskies also grabbed a season-high 55 rebounds Thursday night, with Nolan being one of the three Huskies recording seven of them, and Ollie “loved” the team’s rebounding effort.
“We are 11-0 when we outrebound our opponents,” Ollie said. “That’s the common denominator in all of our wins.”
Nolan said the team does approximately 10 rebound drills each practice and that its “starting to pay off.”
Containing TaShawn Thomas
Houston’s junior forward TaShawn Thomas gave UConn plenty of trouble down in Texas about a month ago as he scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the Cougars win.
Comimg into Thursday’s contest, Ollie knew containing Thomas would be the key to the game. The Huskies managed to hold Thomas’ scoring to single digits for the first time this season.
“To hold him to six points and four rebounds, that’s just a great job by Amida [Brimah],” Ollie said. “And then Phil [Nolan] came in and gave us a lift on the offensive and defensive end. It was just a complete game by us.