More ugly wins, more clutch Bazz

I NEVER REALLY liked the phrase “finding ways to win.” It’s kind of cliche and inane. But it kind of fits this current UConn team.

How can a team win when out-rebounded by 31? How can it win shooting 29 percent from the field?

I guess those are learned skills.

— ONE GAME AFTER helping pull UConn’s rump out of fire against Providence, Shabazz Napier did it again. He scored 11 of his 24 points in overtime, including a trio of 3-pointers that were UConn’s first nine points of the extra session.

It’s like he’s a different player in OT.

“Oh yeah. I’m want to get the game over with so I’m more aggressive,” Napier said. “I feel like I need to be more aggressive and I try my best.”

— UCONN WAS SOOOOOOO bad in the first half that it only could get better. The Huskies scored 15 points in the first half, their lowest ever for a half at Gampel and their lowest output since they trailed 30-9 to UMass on Dec. 10, 2002 in Hartford. (UConn stormed back to win that game, too, 59-48.

“It was kind of embarrassing,” Tyler Olander said of the first half. “We haven’t played at Gampel in about a month and to come out in front of our fans and play like that, we’re lucky they stayed for the second half.”

UConn blasted out of the gates in the second half with a 10-0 run.

So what went on at halftime?

“We didn’t talk about anything (schematically). We talked about effort and energy,” coach Kevin Ollie said.

— NAPIER CONTINUES TO do his best Kemba Walker impersonations.

“Just the way he loves to take over that moment and own that moment reminds me a lot of Kemba,” Tyler Olander said.

The Bulls knew something like this could happen.

“We knew he’s a guy that likes to step up big,” USF coach Stan Heath said. “Even in regulation, we kind of had our hands down and he took that long shot. And I’ve seen him make that shot, too.”

Napier is “not afraid to fail” which is one of his best attributes.

“He embraces it, which is crazy,” Ollie said. “But that’s what great players do. They embrace those situations. They live for those situations.”

Napier agreed.

“To be successful in life you have to fail multiple times,” Napier said. “I’ve failed so many times in my life through basketball, I just find ways to learn from the experience and be successful, try to do something better than I did the last time.”

— HEATH’S TEAM HAD some rough luck. The Bulls played one of their better games of the season but have nothing to show for it. They’re 1-8 in league play now.

“If you told me we were going to hold them to 29 percent shooting, 33 from three and we’re going to out-rebound them, I’m thinking we’re leaving here with a win,” Heath said.

— USF BIG MAN Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (22 points, 10 rebounds), who made five 3-pointers Sunday, had made just six of his last 34 attempts from that range over his last six games.

— BEFORE THE GAME UConn recognized the players on its team that scored a 3.0 or better GPA in the fall semester: Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier, R.J. Evans and Leon Tolksdorf.

— THE HUSKIES’ previous low shooting percentage this season was 36.8 (21-of-57) against New Hampshire Nov. 29.

— THE 9,205 FANS here today represented the largest crowd of the season at Gampel this season. No sellouts yet.

— FORMER UCONN GUARD Taliek Brown is back on campus this semester to take a few classes and finish up his undergraduate degree.

— THIS WAS USF’s first trip to Gampel Pavilion. They were the only team in the Big East that had never played in the building.

— AFTER NOT PLAYING for the last five games, Leon Tolksdorf got in the game and made an early 3-pointer.

“Leon’s been working his tail off in practice,” Ollie said. “He deserved that. He deserved some minutes.”

Tolksdorf had scored a total of seven points this season prior to today.



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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