Shabazz Napier is a showman. On Wednesday night, in his last home game as a UConn Husky, he gave the crowd quite a performance — and left them wanting more.
The star guard capped his Senior Night in a sold-out Gampel Pavilion by hitting seven three-pointers, part of 26 points. Napier’s hot shooting (8-13 from the floor, 7-11 from three) set the tone for UConn, who shot over 47% as a team. Fellow senior Niels Giffey chipped in a career-high 16 points — effectively serving as Napier’s sidekick.
Rutgers (11-19, 5-12) did their best to make it a game. While it never truly felt like they could win, they did keep the score close. Guard Myles Mack scored 16, including four threes, and took advantage of UConn’s generally lazy defense.
While the final score of 69-63 is certainly a positive for UConn (24-6, 12-5), the grandeur of Senior Night will be the lasting memory of the evening. Walk-on (and official A Dime Back spokesman) Tor Watts was the first player to receive recognition. Followed by Lasan Kromah and Tyler Olander — Connecticut family in tow. Niels Giffey walked to half court with his mom, who traveled from Germany, and excitedly took pictures during and after the game.
Napier was the last to receive his plaque. His mother — #1 seed in the UConn Mom Tournament — Carmen Velasquez, and other family members strolled to mid-court and hugged coach Kevin Ollie. Napier then broke from the ceremony to run over and embrace his former coach, Jim Calhoun.
The ceremony was typical of a UConn program that does a phenomenal job of celebrating their current players and monumentalizing their former ones. When Wednesday’s game was over, Ollie stated that he wants his team among those celebrated in UConn’s past. As most fans meandered towards the exits, Ollie took the microphone and told the crowd that he planned on seeing them again, after UConn wins the National Championship.
- Tyler Olander made the most of his final home game. Given the start by Ollie, Olander contributed two buckets and grabbed three boards. Nice to see him do well.
- It was a very quiet night for Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels. The duo combined for only seven points in 41 combined minutes. Daniels suffered from a bit of foul trouble, but UConn will obviously struggle to win down the stretch with that lack of production.
- Phil Nolan loves to draw charges, and he did so several times on Wednesday. Additionally, watch this.
- Napier, who often claims to ignore crowd noise, mentioned after the game that the “MVP! MVP!” chants from the crowd were ringing loud and clear with him on the free throw line.
The Huskies will close their regular season with their toughest matchup of the season, as they travel to Louisville on Saturday (Mar. 8th). The game will tip at 2pm and can be seen on CBS.
The short, stocky point guard who helped UConn shock the world returned home this past weekend. Khalid El-Amin stood on the Gampel Pavilion court, posed with his teammates from UConn’s first national title team in 1999, and embraced his former coach, Jim Calhoun. He watched as two banners were unveiled, formally inducting the team, and him personally, into UConn’s Huskies of Honor.
El-Amin is a beloved figure in Connecticut. Paired with the tacit brilliance of Richard “Rip” Hamilton, El-Amin’s boisterous and infectious attitude brought levity and fun to the game. And man, could he play.
When he arrived on campus, El-Amin joined a young UConn team brimming with talent fresh off an NIT season in 1997. Hamilton, Kevin Freeman and Jake Voskuhl had just completed their freshman seasons. Ricky Moore and Rashamel Jones, their sophomore campaigns.
In his first game as a Husky, November 15, 1997 against Yale, El-Amin led UConn in scoring. He scored 23 points on 9-13 shooting, handed off five assists and registered five steals. It was the first moment in a season that would end with El-Amin holding the all-time record for points by a freshman in UConn history (593). Combined with Hamilton’s 795 points, the duo set a record for most points by UConn teammates that stood until 2011 when they were surpassed by Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb.
The 1998 season ended prematurely for El-Amin and the Huskies. While Hamilton’s buzzer-beater over Washington in the Sweet Sixteen still delights Husky fans, their season ended two days later at the hands of Vince Carter and North Carolina. El-Amin averaged 23.3 points per game in the tournament, beginning his legacy as king of the moment, master of the big shot.
Expectations were sky high heading into the 1998-1999 season. UConn had returned their entire starting lineup, including Hamilton who considered jumping to the NBA that offseason. They were truly unstoppable. Their season began with 19 consecutive victories including two indelible moments for El-Amin.
On December 12th, UConn ventured to Pittsburgh — consider this the beginning of their decade-long rivalry that followed. Down four, with 15 seconds to play, El-Amin brought the ball up court and found sophomore Albert Mouring, who buried a three to narrow Pitt’s lead. Following a timeout, Pitt threw away the inbounds pass. UConn recovered and handed the ball to El-Amin, who won the game with a spinning free-throw line jumper.
The image of a victorious El-Amin atop the Pitt scorers’ table taunting the home fans remains an iconic moment in UConn history.
Two months later, the Huskies (who were ranked #1 in the country at the time) ventured to California to take on #4 Stanford. Hamilton was out with an injury, putting the game squarely on El-Amin’s shoulders.
The crowd was relentless. Their taunts of El-Amin were hateful and ceaseless. El-Amin’s response was to drop 23 points, five assists and five steals on the Cardinal, sealing a signature win for UConn.
Despite losing only two games on the season, when UConn reached the National Championship game, they were severe underdogs. Duke was the consensus best team in America, and their center Elton Brand was considered the best player in the country. You know the rest. Jim Calhoun devised an interior defense that confounded Brand. Ricky Moore scored early and often in the first half. Hamilton and El-Amin sealed the victory late. They shocked the world.
It was the moment when UConn basketball became legitimate. They had come up short so often before, but were now being welcomed into college basketball’s elite.
Early into the offseason, Hamilton announced he would leave UConn for the NBA. Moore and Rashamel Jones were graduating. El-Amin had a choice to make. He chose to stay.
In hindsight, his prospects may have never been higher. He had proven on the biggest stage that he could play with the best players in the country, that he was a leader, and that he had the, um…courage…to take big shots. It could be argued he should have taken the leap and joined Hamilton in declaring for the draft.
By staying on campus, El-Amin piloted a flawed UConn team that lacked a true second scoring option. Albert Mouring was the team’s second leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, but his game was perimeter-based (Mouring attempted 180 threes and shot 47.8% from deep). Kevin Freeman struggled in his move to the small forward slot. He averaged 11 points and just under six rebounds. Freshman Ajou Deng, thought to be the next big star, averaged less than five points and under 15 minutes per game, en route to becoming maybe the greatest disappointment in the program’s history.
El-Amin led the team back to the NCAA Tournament, but the magic from the year earlier had worn off. UConn barely escaped Utah State in the first round, and lost to Tennessee two days later when El-Amin suffered an ankle injury that limited him to just 13 minutes and three points. It was the last time he would ever wear a UConn uniform.
El-Amin announced his intentions to enter the NBA Draft following the season. When draft day came, El-Amin had to wait a long time to hear his name called. His teammate, Jake Voskuhl was selected with the 33rd pick by the Chicago Bulls, who then chose El-Amin with the 34th pick. As was seen this past offseason with current UConn star Shabazz Napier, a second round prognosis usually sends kids back to college.
However, with his decision made, El-Amin joined the Bulls. He didn’t last through his first season. He was released by the team after playing 50 games, in which he averaged 6.3 points and 2.9 assists per contest. His career took him overseas where he continued playing with flair and passion. He has made enough money to live comfortably, and while currently healing from injury, has had the good fortune to play basketball for living for the past 14 years.
One wonders, however, how different things would look if Khalid came back for his senior season instead of declaring for the 2000 NBA Draft.
The 2000-2001 UConn team was not very good. With El-Amin gone and Freeman and Voskuhl graduated, Albert Mouring and Edmund Saunders were the sole holdovers from the 1999 title team. Their point guard was a tough freshman from New York named Taliek Brown, who could pass, but couldn’t shoot. They did have one thing the previous year’s squad didn’t however, an amazingly talented freshman, Caron Butler.
Had El-Amin returned, he and Butler may have been primed to recapture the success gained when El-Amin partnered with Hamilton. The following year, Butler would, almost single-handedly, carry UConn to the Elite Eight.
In what would have been El-Amin’s senior season, Butler averaged over 15 points per game, as did Albert Mouring. That wasn’t good enough without a second star player, however, and UConn went to the NIT where they promptly lost. Would a talented El-Amin have provided enough reinforcements to change the outcome? If he had, would his draft stock have improved enough to earn him a first round pick and more of an American playing career?
There’s also the historical side of this hypothetical. El-Amin’s three-year point total of 1,650 is currently good for 11th place on UConn’s all-time list (just behind Napier). If he had come back to Storrs and duplicated his junior year output of 560 points, he would pass all others, including both Hamilton and Chris Smith, on the all-time leaderboard, becoming the greatest scorer in UConn history. Had he and Butler been enough to make a deep tournament run, he would have a very serious claim as the greatest player to wear a UConn uniform.
The what-if game is an interesting exercise concerning El-Amin, because he was so generally unpredictable. He could take over a game on a moment’s notice by scoring points in a hurry. Or he could sit back, let the game come to him, and get his teammates involved. He appeared to genuinely love playing basketball, and on Sunday as he watched his name and number displayed in the rafters, it was obvious that he loved being a Husky. Despite only three years on campus, and a specter of missed opportunities, the Storrs faithful, his team and the university clearly love him back.
On a day when UConn honored one of the most accomplished teams of the program’s past, the current squad put on a performance destined more for the waste basket than the rafters.
SMU embarrassed the Huskies Sunday in Gampel Pavilion. The Mustangs, led by Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, shot over 50% in the second half, while holding UConn to a paltry 25% clip. Their defense confounded and frustrated the Huskies, who also committed 16 turnovers.
UConn’s starting lineup of Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Lasan Kromah, Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier shot a combined 25% (11-44) on the game. While Boatright’s shot wasn’t falling, he was UConn’s best player, getting to the line 11 times and finishing with 15 points and three assists. As a team, UConn had only one assist in the second half.
Remarkably, the Huskies had ample opportunity to seize control of the game in the second half. Down five with four minutes left, DeAndre Daniels got an open look from three. He missed. SMU came back down the floor, got an offensive rebound and buried a three of their own. The Huskies found Daniels again on the ensuing possession, only to see that attempt go wanting as well. He was 0-4 from deep. From there, the game was basically over. UConn would not get closer than eight points until the clock hit zero.
The victory secured SMU (22-6, 11-4) over UConn in the AAC standings. The Huskies (21-6, 9-5) are now fifth among the five legitimate teams in the league. The good, and bad, news for UConn is that all of the top five teams each have two games left against the others. The Huskies will host Cincinnati in Hartford next weekend and close the season at Louisville (with layups at USF and Senior Night against Rutgers mixed in). Winning the conference is probably farfetched at this point, but closing the regular season with some big wins would certainly boost their NCAA Tournament prospects.
- The highlight of the game was the halftime celebration honoring the 1999 National Championship team. All five starters — Jake Voskuhl, Kevin Freeman, Ricky Moore, Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin — were in the house, along with Souleymane Wane, Beau Archibald and walk-on Richard Moore. Coach Jim Calhoun also took the floor to stand with his former players.
- The team received a banner in the Huskies of Honor section of Gampel Pavilion — to the right of the scoreboard in the auxiliary student section. And El-Amin received a banner of his own. He joins Hamilton who was previously bestowed the honor.
UConn travels south for a much needed vacation. They’ll take on USF in Tampa on Wednesday night (Feb. 26th). Tip is at 7pm and you may or may not be able to watch it because it’s on CBS Sports again. Gross.
UConn’s win over Memphis on Saturday brought their conference record to 8-4 on the season. Much of their success can be attributed to the three-point shot. The Huskies are currently leading the AAC by shooting 40.7%. They are second to Louisville with 198 threes in conference play.
With the dynamic backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, it’d be natural to assume they would be leading the charge. Or perhaps senior Niels Giffey, who is shooting 50% from deep on the year — among the best in the nation.
A look at the stats, however, reveals junior DeAndre Daniels is UConn’s biggest deep threat against AAC opponents. He’s hitting close to half of his attempts. For more, check out the chart below.
With recent comments from UConn guard Shabazz Napier and American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco sparking debate, and some confusion, concerning full-cost-of-attendance stipends for college athletes, we thought it might be worthwhile to expand on the topic.
Some links that touch on various aspects of the topic:
The NCAA conference in January led to the power conferences seeking autonomy, and hoping to provide for full-cost-of-attendance to their schools.
As eluded to above, Aresco has said the AAC is on board with that plan. Additionally, UConn athletic director Warde Manuel told Kevin Duffy of the Connecticut Post that the university supports the additional stipend as well.
For their part, UConn’s scholarships are already some of the most inclusive in the nation.
- UConn covers tuition and provides money for textbooks. Student-athletes are also given on-campus housing as part of their scholarship.
- Players eat meals provided by the athletic department after practices in the training room.
- Otherwise, they can eat in the dining halls, similar to other co-eds, with their meal plan provided by UConn.
- If they choose to live off-campus, they don’t receive a meal plan, but they do receive money meant to cover food and other expenses.
- For road games, players are giving a stipend for meals.
Speaking of food, from 2012, here’s the New York Times piece that brought attention to the issue of the NCAA and their rules concerning food for athletes.
Some bizarre incidents have occurred because of food-based restrictions. The late Utah coach Rick Majerus drew ire for sharing a bagel with Keith Van Horn after his father passed away. And as recently as Wednesday, when Oklahoma self-reported a violation for doling out too much pasta.
Silliness aside, Yahoo!’s Nina Mandell took a look at the financial problems players encounter under current conditions.
From several years earlier, in 2011, a report was released claiming the NCAA was trapping student-athletes in poverty.
Napier isn’t the only high profile player speaking up. Last month, University of Alabama Quarterback AJ McCarron (with his collegiate playing career over), went on record saying the NCAA should pay their players.
NCAA President Mark Emmert is against paying players.
Members of the Northwestern University football team have taken it a step further, seeking to unionize.
Here is what Northwestern players are seeking, via the Chicago Tribune.
Hearings are going on that will determine if the unionization efforts are allowed. Here is an Associated Press story about testimony from a sports economist.
These are complicated issues that draw heavy opinions on both sides. TIME magazine recently ran a cover story titled “It’s Time To Pay College Athletes.” Forbes ran a rebuttal that you can read here.
A public opinion poll conducted by Marist College last April showed that only 27 percent of people asked would support student-athletes earning a salary or stipend above a scholarship.
“My college experience has been tough,” said Napier. “We don’t have enough money sometimes, and there’s so many rules now that you can’t take money from anybody [to help]. That’s understandable but, when it gets down to it, we make so much money for the NCAA and they don’t give us any money at all. [They] expect us to starve, or expect us not to eat, it’s kinda tough.”
“You’ve got to learn how to save your money. You’ve gotta learn how to do a lot of [other] things that are kind of unnecessary. We come here to get a good education, and that’s really important, but at the end of the day, if I can’t study because I’m hungry, I’m not going to be able to do well in class. And [then] I won’t be able to play. There’s a lot of things that they don’t really take into perspective.”
While the NCAA has yet to formally address the issue, American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco, revealed before Saturday’s game that the AAC is committed to following the lead of the power five conferences in providing athletic scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance, if permitted.
Currently, scholarships cover tuition to the university but can sometimes fail to cover the expenses of items like food, text books, and even room and board. Student-athletes are frequently left with thousands of dollars in additional costs that can pile up and become unmanageable given the financial restraints placed upon them by the NCAA.
While a full cost of attendance scholarship would come too late to benefit Napier, he said it would benefit players in similar financial situations going forward. For a conference struggling to find its identity, like the AAC, it could also provide a crucial recruiting tool to its member schools as they aim to compete with their major conference rivals.
All parties will have to wait for the full cost of attendance policy to be enacted and permitted by the NCAA first. The major conferences have essentially agreed to the concept, as did a majority of schools at the latest NCAA convention. The NCAA is expected to seek a vote on the matter this summer.
#24 UConn (20-5, 8-4) won an overtime thriller against #20 Memphis (19-6, 8-4) before a sell-out crowd in Hartford on Saturday. The game was an instant classic that featured fast-paced play by both teams, incredible moments and near-misses.
Memphis held a three point lead late in regulation, and looked ready to seal the victory. Shabazz Napier missed a potential game-tying three-pointer only to get the ball back on a fantastic Phil Nolan offensive rebound. Napier made the most of his second chance, driving to the rim and completing an and-one to tie the game with 52 seconds left.
The Tigers had dominated UConn inside all game, and looked to big man Shaq Goodwin in the low block. DeAndre Daniels made a great recovery play, blocking Goodwin’s shot towards the first row. A scramble ensued, once again led by Nolan, and (after some capitulating by the refereeing crew) a shot-clock violation was called, giving UConn a chance to play for the win.
Of course, the ball ended up back in Napier’s hands. He dribbled the clock down to five seconds, made a quick move, then launched. His three-pointed circled the rim, dipped below the cylinder for a moment, then fell out.
It was Memphis’ only lucky break of the game, but their momentum wouldn’t last long. UConn dominated the overtime period. Ryan Boatright scored eight points in the extra period alone. Napier added six more. With Memphis desperately fouling down the stretch to close the gap, UConn buried their free throws and secured a signature victory.
Napier played on another level. He passed both Cliff Robinson and Wes Bialosuknia on UConn’s all-time scoring list — where he now sits alone in eight place — and kept going. He recorded a career-high 34 points in the game, bolstered by nine free throws on 12 attempts.
Despite Napier’s heroics, their most important player on Saturday may have been Ryan Boatright. With Napier on the bench for a long stretch of time in the first half — a fluke where the clock didn’t stop game action for several minutes — Boatright calmly led the team on offense, keeping them in the game. He was only 1-4 from the floor in the first, but did record five assists and six points, going 4-4 from the foul line.
Down the stretch, Boatright showed his meddle. He buried two huge three-pointers and abused Memphis’ guards — or maybe they abused him — getting to the line for 12 free throws, of which he hit 11. Boatright finished with 21 points — his first 20+ point game of the season — led the team with six assists, and played over 40 minutes.
The final score, UConn 86 – Memphis 81, can be attributed to UConn’s tenacity and two key statistical categories. UConn attempted 36 free throws (hitting 29) to Memphis’ nine (they made six). The Tigers also committed 18 turnovers to UConn’s six. Hitting foul shots and taking care of the ball allowed the Huskies to overcome losing the battle on the boards 38-28, giving up 42 points in the paint, and allowing Memphis to shoot 54.8% for the game.
The victory will look good on UConn’s tournament resumé. The Huskies have now reached the 20-win mark and are all but assured a spot in the tournament come March. But this was also a moral victory. It proved that UConn can win a lot of different ways, and won’ t go down without a fight.
- Boatright collected his 1,000th career point in the game. Congrats to him.
- Phil Nolan did yeoman’s work on defense against Shaq Goodwin — who scored seven points and got six rebounds. With Ollie choosing Nolan over Amida, Brimah, he was rewarded with a good defensive effort.
- Brimah’s benching was curious, in that UConn was giving up a ton of layups with no one protecting the rim.
- Lasan Kromah played 41 minutes in the game, a career-high.
- Great XL Center crowd today…once they were let in the building. Fans were trapped outside as the arena attempted to funnel several hundred people through two open doors. The game sold out, but many spectators didn’t make it into XL until several minutes into the first half. Unacceptable.
UConn travels to Philly to take on Temple on Thursday night (Feb. 20th). Tip is 9pm again, and the game will be on ESPN.
DeAndre Daniels greeted the press with a giant bag of ice on his right forearm. The cause of the ailment? “I hurt it on a dunk. I threw it down too hard.” That was the only thing that went wrong for #22 UConn (19-5, 7-4) in their 83-40 pounding of USF on Wednesday night.
Daniels said he’s fine, by the way.
In a game that saw 12 Huskies play, and all of them score, there were no shortage of bright spots. UConn shot 52.% on the game (64% in the first half before the starters all took a breather). They out-rebounded the Bulls 41-31. They held USF to 24% shooting, forced 15 turnovers and cured several infectious diseases (possibly).
Daniels, who had missed the previous two games due to injury, scored a game-high 12 points to accompany five rebounds. He only played 23 minutes. Freshman Kentan Facey was the only other player (on either team) to score in double-figures. Despite fouling-out late, Facey impressed, scoring ten points and hitting a three just to rub in the ridiculousness of the affair.
“Everybody who stepped on the court got a basket and I thought that was amazing,” said head coach Kevin Ollie. “I’m very proud of the bench and it shows how deep of a team we are.”
Ollie’s bench outscored the starting lineup, 42-41 — and actually outscored the entire USF team (40). The gigantic lead, and stellar bench play, allowed guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier to steal some much-needed rest.
Freshman point guard Terrence Samuel made the most of his time relieving his mentors. He controlled the offense, looked strong when driving the paint, and displayed quick hands on defense.
“I enjoyed Terrence out there running the show. Kentan came in and got right in the four-hole and made his first shot,” said Ollie. “He gave us a lot of energy. we didn’t lose any rhythm with our two best guys on the bench.”
All-in-all, it was a cakewalk for UConn. They’ll have two days (snow permitting) of practice before Memphis visits the XL Center on Saturday. They’ll have to practice pretty hard since they didn’t face much competition against USF.
- Shabazz Napier played only 18 minutes, but in that time managed to pass both Donyell Marshall and Khalid El-Amin on UConn’s all-time scoring list. He now stands alone in tenth place with Cliff Robinson ten points away.
- Lasan Kromah played phenomenally well. He tied for the team lead with five rebounds and handed out seven assists without committing a turnover.
- Amida Brimah had six blocks on the game despite some typical foul trouble.
- Walk-ons Pat Lenehan and Nnamdi Amilo (subbing for a wounded Tor Watts) each saw minutes, and each scored. Amilo sank two free throws. Lenehan hit one of his own before burying a corner three, much to the delight of the scant XL Center crowd.
- Ollie on Lenehan: “He does a great job for us. He’s selfless. Sometimes I have him on defense the whole practice and he keeps playing hard. I’m happy we got his name on his jersey.”
- Lenehan got his name on his jersey.
#20 Memphis ventures to Hartford on Saturday looking for revenge. The game tips at noon and can be seen on ESPN.
#22 UConn overcame the distraction of playing on a court styled after a Florida brush fire to put away the hapless UCF Knights 75-55 on Sunday evening.
In typical fashion, the Huskies stomped on the gas early against an inferior opponent, and led 41-24 at the half, before allowing UCF to close the gap late and add unnecessary intrigue. Still, despite the best attempts by the ESPN crew, the outcome was never truly in jeopardy and UConn sailed to a relatively easy win by the time the clock hit zero.
DeAndre Daniels returned to the UConn lineup after missing the past two games with ankle and back issues. He struggled with his shot, missing his first five attempts, but rounded into form. He finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. The Huskies badly missed his versatility on offense during his absence.
With Daniels back to help out on offense, Shabazz Napier was able to float through the game doing a little bit of everything else. He scored 17 points on 11 shots, while adding a team-high six assists and seven rebounds, as well as three steals. He didn’t try to force the issue, instead allowing the flow of the Husky offense to drive his decision making. Daniels being in the middle of UCF’s flaccid zone defense, certainly helped.
So too did the play of Lasan Kromah. Clearly the best defender on team, Kromah found his offensive game on Sunday, notching a UConn career-high 17 points. Kromah also lead UConn with four steals and tied for a game-high seven rebounds with Daniels and Napier.
All told, UConn (17-5, 5-4) was gift-wrapped an easy win against a bad UCF team, and played well enough to secure it.
- Amida Brimah struggled with foul trouble (shocking), but Phil Nolan picked up his slack. Nolan scored 10 points and went 5-5 from the floor. Can’t ask for better from your backup center.
- Ryan Boatright struggled for much of the game before hitting his final two shots in the paint. Boatright has been struggling the past few weeks with his shot, but is continually doing a nice job getting to the line. He was 5-6 from the stripe on Sunday.
- UCF’s Justin McBride was a hot topic for a stretch in the 2nd half. At 6’10” 310lbs (I’d honestly guess higher), he gave the ESPN crew something to talk about when they weren’t building golden statues of Isiah Sykes.
- Napier passed both Jerome Dyson and Mike McKay on UConn’s all-time scoring list. He now sits at 1,647 career points — one behind Donyell Marshall, three behind Khalid El-Amin. 17 more points catches Uncle Cliffy, Cliff Robinson for ninth.
UConn will take on the second of the interchangeable Florida teams when USF arrives in Hartford on Wednesday. The game will be on ESPN or ESPN2 at 7pm.
#22 UConn’s three game winning streak came to an abrupt end on Thursday night, as they dropped a close one to #7 Cincinnati (22-2, 11-0), 63-58.
The Huskies were without their second-leading scorer and rebounder, DeAndre Daniels, whose
bum ankle back kept him out for the second straight game. Without him, Shabazz Napier was expected to carry even more of the burden on offense. In atypical fashion, Napier was not up for the challenge.
Napier was 5-19 from the floor (26%) and 2-12 from three (17%). While managing to lead UConn with 16 points, he notched only two rebounds and three assists, while generally seeming out of rhythm for most of the contest. With the game close late, Napier faltered, missing a deep three that would have given UConn the lead with 33 seconds remaining.
Lasan Kromah and Niels Giffey again started for UConn in Daniels’ absence. Both played well. Kromah was UConn’s best offensive weapon for large stretches of the game. He scored 13 points to accompany his usual stout defense. Giffey joined Kromah and Napier as the third Husky in double-digits, adding ten points of his own.
UConn (17-5, 5-4) needed a lift with Daniels out of action, yet no one was able to provide it. Ryan Boatright had a rough game — nine points, four rebounds, one assist. Without a late three-pointer, it looked even worse.
While a road loss to a top ten team is nothing to be ashamed of, this loss will sting because UConn had a chance to win it. A typical game from either Napier or Boatright might have been enough to swing it. It continued an interesting trend for UConn, where they appear capable of playing alongside the nation’s best teams, but occasionally lack the ability to put them away when given a chance to win.
- With Daniels out, UConn’s bench was very thin. Terrence Samuel made a nice layup in the first half. Omar Calhoun made a tough 15-footer in the second. Those were the only points scored by UConn’s bench all game.
- The Huskies had no match for Sean Kilpatrick, who is very good. He finished with 26 points and 11 boards.
- UConn only gave up six offensive rebounds (and got six of their own). Poor shooting was the reason UConn lost, not rebounding.
- Napier (3), Kromah (2) and Boatright (1) were the only UConn players to record an assist. That’s a pretty sure sign that the offense was out of sync.
- The Huskies shot 5-21 from three — continuing a trend where poor shooting from deep translates into a loss.
- The game got ugly for part of the second half when the referees inserted themselves into the action. Over a 102 second span, there were six fouls called between the two teams. Tedious.
UConn travels to Orlando to take on UCF on Sunday (Feb. 9th). Tip is 6pm (over in time for The Walking Dead). You can see the game on ESPN2.