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Men's Basketball: Cold second half dooms No. 10 UConn against Stanford

Sports Editor

Published: Thursday, December 19, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:12

HARTFORD – Throughout the season, Shabazz Napier and the UConn men’s basketball team have found a way to cheat death on multiple occasions.

The No. 10 Huskies have gotten out to big leads, like the 10-point lead they brought into halftime Wednesday night against Stanford, only to have the lead disappear in the second half, putting UConn on the ropes.

Usually, the opponent will get within one or take the lead before Napier does something crazy to win the game.

That was not the case Wednesday.

UConn shot 5 of 31 in the second half, 0 of 12 from behind the 3-point line, and two questionable 3-pointers from Napier rimmed out in the final minute, as did a Napier jumper and desperation 3-pointer from Omar Calhoun in the final 10 seconds, and Stanford left the XL Center with a 53-51 upset win, knocking UConn from the ranks of the unbeatens.

“We’re going to have nights when we’re not shooting very well,” said DeAndre Daniels, who led the team with 15 points. “So that’s when we have to do other things – pass, get easy layups, get to the free-throw line – and that’s what we didn’t do tonight.”

UConn’s loss also ended a run of 54 games unbeaten at home against non-conference opponents and 13 games unbeaten against teams from the Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10) Conference.

“We understand we weren’t going to go into the postseason undefeated,” Napier said.”

UConn went on an 8-0 run in the final two minutes of the first half to take a 38-28 lead into the locker room, capping the run with a Napier steal that led to a Lasan Kromah layup on the other end just before the buzzer.

Out of the break, Ryan Boatright hit Niels Giffey on the run for a reverse layup to give UConn a 13-point lead with 16:48 to play, but the Huskies went cold after that, and Stanford answered the call.

After Giffey’s layup, UConn did not score again until a Napier jumper gave the Huskies a one-point lead with 10:34 left.

From there, the lead exchanged hands in rapid succession. Seven straight buckets in the second half resulted in lead changes, of which there were 18 throughout the game.

But UConn’s inability to make shots allowed Stanford to stay out in front. Chasson Randle’s jumper with 6:15 remaining gave the Cardinal a 50-49 lead, and the two teams combined to score only five points from that point on.

“Like we’ve been doing, we played in spurts, and we let [Stanford] back in,” head coach Kevin Ollie said. “Once they smelled that they could play with us, they took it to us.”

Napier was especially hard on himself following the loss. He finished with 12 points and eight assists – passing Ricky Moore and Marcus Williams for eighth in career assists with 512 – but the senior shot 2 of 10 in the second half with one assist.

“I’m kind of upset with the way I played in the second half, the way I ran my team in the second half,” Napier said. “I really felt like this was going to be a good win for us, and I didn’t come through.”

Three of Napier’s 10 misses came in the final 41 seconds, when he missed two contested 3-pointers with plenty of time to shoot and a jumper with eight seconds left that would have tied the game.

“I wanted him to go to the basket,” Ollie said. “With Shabazz, you live with that because he’s put this team on his back a lot of times. But he could have taken it to the basket a couple of times, but he settled for the long three ball.”

“I felt like I had two open 3s, and [Ollie] was stressing go to the basket,” Napier said. “As you can see, I didn’t go. I should have. I was kind of unable to go because they were in a zone at the end.”

UConn was unable to penetrate Stanford’s zone throughout the night, and Ollie pointed to the Huskies’ inability to get the ball to the middle near the free-throw line as a reason for settling for jump shots, which resulted in UConn going cold.

The Huskies’ late-game magic did not appear Wednesday, but UConn might learn a thing or two from a disappointing loss that precedes a four-game stretch that includes a trip to Washington, a home game in unfamiliar Bridgeport and two road games to begin the inaugural American Athletic Conference season.

“You always need a wake-up call,” Napier said. “Sometimes you wish you didn’t get it in a loss. Sometimes you wish you could have gotten it in a one-point victory, but it’s a part of life, and you’ve got to learn from it.”

 

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