UConn hits the gas late

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UConn guard Shabazz Napier, sporting an “US VERSUS THEM” hat and cradling the ball he was presented with Sunday for scoring his 1,000th point a few weeks ago, speaks to reporters after the Huskies’ win over Rutgers.

A few quick notes from UConn’s 66-54 win over Rutgers Sunday afternoon at the old mall:

— IT APPEARS AS if Shabazz Napier’s shoulder is no longer an issue.

He had 19 points, six assists, five rebounds in 36 minutes Sunday. He also hit some big shots as UConn pulled away from Rutgers.

“He makes timely shots. He makes winning plays,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “That’s why I love the kid.”

— A GOOD ALL-AROUND game from Niels Giffey, including a key steal and-one play that put UConn ahead for good.

“When I look at versatility in the dictionary, I see Niels Giffey’s picture by it,” Ollie said. “I call on him to play the three, the four, the two, the one. He just steps up and does it. I love him to death.”

Giffey had seven points, three rebounds and four steals.

“He’s an all-out effort guy and we need those people,” Napier said.

— NAPIER HAD A few cryptic words about UConn bouncing back from a rough stretch. He talked a lot about “next year” so maybe he’s not considering an early jump to the NBA.

“If we can fight through things we’re fighting through now, next year’s going to be so much easier,” Napier said.

— RUTGERS COACH Mike Rice had some praise for Napier’s improved play.

“The game’s slow to him. When he wants to fast, he goes fast. When he wants to get a shot, he gets a shot,” Rice said. “He doesn’t rush things. He’s really, from last years, matured his approach and how he runs his team.”

— GIFFEY AND DEANDRE DANIELS credit for key steals that led to breakaways. But Daniels’ late steal and dunk was created by another UConn player. Enosch Wolf, all 7-foot-1 of him, forced Rutgers’ Austin Johnson into a poor pass in the backcourt.

Maybe he’ll take over one of the front spots of a 2-2-1 press in the team’s next game. Well, maybe not but still….

“I feel like I have decent footwork so I can stay with my man, especially if it’s a big guy,” Wolf said. “So I have no problem going out there and pressuring over half court.”

— GIFFEY’S STEAL was a key play, breaking a 32-32 tie and jumpstarting a stagnant offense.

“They had it staggered for my guy. I just kind of read the play and read the defender’s eyes and the point guard’s eyes, and kind of new that it was coming,” Giffey said.

Neill

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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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