Shabazz goes straight to the heart

Marquette's Todd Mayo, left, is fouled by UConn's Shabazz Napier, right, in the second half in Hartford Saturday. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Shabazz Napier doesn’t often keep his opinion to himself and this was no different. The UConn point guard, after his team dropped a painful 79-64 decision to Marquette Saturday afternoon, came out firing in talking with the media afterward.

“I hate to say it but I have to question a lot of these guys’ hearts,” Napier said.

He was particularly annoyed that Marquette nearly completed an alley-oop near the end of the game.

“Allowing someone to almost get an alley-oop at the end of the game, just quitting, 16 seconds left. It doesn’t look like UConn basketball,” Napier said. “It don’t look like basketball at all. Where I’m from, you ain’t getting an alley-oop at the end of the game. If you won the game, you won the game. Don’t try to embarrass us. That’s just a measure of your heart. If you have to knock somebody out of the air, you knock somebody out of the air.”

Napier wasn’t shy about saying how he felt, but he didn’t exactly enjoy saying it.

“It looked out there like we gave up at the end,” Napier said. “It’s tough to say, because we’re a great team. For those words to be coming out of my mouth, it’s horrendous.”

The sophomore from Boston also thought his teammates lacked an ability to counterpunch.

“Some guys don’t want to give it back. Some guys get punched and they want to throw a pillow at somebody,” Napier said. “

“This isn’t tennis, it isn’t golf. This isn’t a one-player sport. We get punched and some guys just throw pillows back. You’re not supposed to throw pillows back. You’re supposed to get a 3-pointer, lock up on defense, do the necessary things to get a win.”

So does Napier speak like this with his teammates?

“I say it all the time. I’m blunt,” Napier said.

“The only reason I’m speaking out is because I’m the captain and at the end of the day, I feel as though I’m the only one who wants to speak out,” Napier said. “Everybody else wants to get in the locker room and stay quiet, like we just died.”

— The technical foul on Ryan Boatright was obviously a game-changer. UConn had cut what was a 16-point lead down to four and the building was alive.

But official Chris Beaver, rather quietly it seems, called Boatright for a T. It seems the freshman guard was squawking in his opponents ear as he walked to the bench for a time out.

Marquette turned the opportunity into a five-point play, making both technical freebies then nailing a 3-pointer when given the ball back. UConn went from down four to down nine in a flash.

Boatright wasn’t made available to the media after the game. Associate head coach George Blaney was asked what happened.

“I don’t know,” Blaney said at first.

Did Boatright explain it to you?

“He did but I’m not going to tell you,” Blaney responded.

OK, do you think it was a fair call?

“No,” Blaney said.

As he did on most subjects, Napier opened up a bit about the T.

“It was immature,” Napier said. “That’s the one thing I can say.”

It wasn’t all Boatright’s fault, though, Napier said.

“At the same time, the refs could have closed their eyes, closed their ears. But it’s immature,” Napier said. “He didn’t do it on purpose; they were going at it the whole game. For that to be called as a technical….”

— The out-of-bounds call with 5:08 to go that official Bob Donato somehow awarded to Marquette?

We can’t really explain that one without taking unnecessary shots at the veteran ref (which we’ve already done on Twitter).

Of course, Marquette took advantage with another 3-pointer (that could have been a four-pointer).

— The technical, and the officials’ decisions in general, didn’t exactly cost the Huskies a game.

Jae Crowder’s 29 points and Darius Johnson-Odom’s 24 sort of did that.

Crowder tied his career high in points and also had 12 rebounds.

Marquette coach Buzz Williams certainly liked his lead duo’s heart.

“I think that you can’t measure heart,” Williams said. “In a world where we try to count everything, not everything counts. You can’t quantify the hearts and the brains that those two seniors are playing with.”

— The visiting team has won five straight games in this series.

— UConn is now 2-4 against ranked teams (beating FSU, Harvard, losing to Syracuse, Georgetown, Louisville and now Marquette.)

— This was UConn’s final game in Hartford this season. The Huskies were 8-2 here this season. Their record here since Jim Calhoun took over is now a nice round 200-50.



About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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