Men's Basketball: Napier, offense struggle as No. 21 UConn upset by SMU
Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014
Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 22:02
On the day UConn honored its 1998-99 national championship team, the 2013-14 Huskies failed to deliver a win to complement the ceremony, falling to SMU, 64-55, Sunday afternoon at Gampel Pavilion.
The Mustangs, who are the top defensive team in the American Athletic Conference, held the Huskies to just 29.6 percent shooting during the game and never allowed the hosts to take a lead.
“They are tough defensively, but you just have to keep moving the basketball,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “We made them even tougher by staying on the first [offensive option]… We won’t shoot 29 percent ever again, hopefully.”
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright scored 15 points apiece to lead the Huskies (21-6, 9-5 American), but combined for just 8-for-28 shooting from the field.
“We just had a bad game all around, offensively at least,” Boatright said. “We were just off as a team. Everybody was missing shots.”
SMU’s backcourt, Nic Moore and Nick Russell, each scored 15 points as well, but accomplished the feat on a combined 8-for-17 shooting.
“They are great players,” Boatright said about Moore and Russell. “They are going to get theirs. We’ve just got to execute defensive schemes and slow them down.”
UConn won the battle on the boards with a 36-31 edge, including 16 offensive rebounds. Despite that, the Huskies managed to scored just 10 second-chance points.
“It’s very frustrating,” Boatright said. “Whenever we put the ball up, it’s just not going in. We’ve just got to get in the gym and get better at it.”
The win gives SMU and Hall-of-Fame coach Larry Brown the season sweep over Ollie, his former player. The Huskies dropped the previous meeting, 74-65, at Moody Coliseum in Dallas on Jan. 4.
“He was the best teammate I’ve ever been around,” Brown said on Ollie. “He was as good as anybody that’s ever put on the uniform. The respect that he has from the his teammates and the coaches, everybody recognizes that.”
It was a slow start for both sides to start the game, with the first points of the contest coming at the 15:45 mark when SMU’s Markus Kennedy scored on a layup.
The teams would go on to commit 11 turnovers each in the first half before SMU headed into the locker room with a 27-25 lead at the break. The 25 points scored by the UConn was it’s lowest in the first half all season.
“The first five or six possessions, it was either a turnover or a missed shot,” Boatright said. “The crowd wants to stand up until we make our first basket, and we felt like everybody was standing up forever.”
At halftime, former UConn guard Khalid El-Amin and the rest of the ‘99 national championship team was inducted into the Huskies of Honor.
“To come back and be honored, not only individually, but the whole ’99 team, that special team we had, it means the world,” El-Amin said prior to the game. “To see the guys, how successful they have become over the years and now as men, it means a lot. It’s special, and I’m happy to be here.”
The Huskies will return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Tampa, Fla. to face USF for a 7 p.m. tipoff.