Naughty by Napier

Lasan Kromah

UConn’s Lasan Kromah goes heels over head to try and save a loose ball during Sunday’s win over Memphis at the XL Center. (Jessica Hill/Associated Press).

 

Another big game, another Shabazz Napier show.

The UConn senior had 34 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals as the Huskies beat Memphis 86-81 in overtime Saturday.

“He’s a great player. He’s an all-American player,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “I know I might be biased but he’s the best guard in America to me. Hands down.”

Napier tied the game with a drive to the basket in the final minute of regulation and nearly won it at the buzzer. His jumper went around the rim two times before spinning out.

“I thought it was going to go in. I call those shots toilet flushes. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they clog up,” Napier said.

He and Ryan Boatright recovered from the disappointment of that shot not going in to dominate the extra session. Boatright had eight points in OT and Napier six.

“There were a couple moments I was talking to myself and telling myself that I have to step it up,” Napier said. “To be the player I want to be, you have to step up in these moments.”

— UCONN IS NOW 20-5 overall.

It’s the 30th 20-win season in school history.

— MEMPHIS WAS CALLED for 23 fouls and UConn just 12. The Huskies attempted 36 free throws and Memphis just nine.

Still, Memphis coach Josh Pastner didn’t even think about blaming the officials in this one.

“The three referees, Roger (Ayers), Lee (Cassell) and Duke (Edsall), they’re great guys. I know them. They’re honest men,” Pastner said. “Sometimes calls go your way and sometimes they don’t. That’s not the reason we lost.”

— THE REASON MEMPHIS lost was an offensive rebound by Phil Nolan and the resulting drive and-1 by Napier.

“What beats you is always the second shot,” Pasnter said. “That’s what got us. They got that extra shot and they got the three-point play.”

— THE LITTLE SCRUM late in regulation was kind of odd. First, it was odd because the officials didn’t realize there was a shot clock violation before Memphis’ David Pellom and UConn’s Phillip Nolan dove on the floor for the loose ball.

Then Pellom and Napier got into a little argument and the benches nearly emptied.

“I was trying to get Phillip up. Pellom was kind of kicking and I don’t want to Phillip to get hit. I didn’t want him to get kicked in the head,” Napier said. “So I was trying to get him up and they just over reacted.”

“I wasn’t too worried. I wasn’t going to throw any hands on anybody. I was just trying to get my guy up,” Napier said.

— NOT ONLY DID he score 20 points or more for the first time this season, UConn guard Ryan Boatright also moved past the 1,000-point mark Saturday.

“It means a lot. It’s an honor to play at this university and it’s a blessing from God to be able to compete the way that I compete and make shots and score 1,000 points,” said Boatright, the 48th player in school history to reach the plateau.

— NAPIER MOVED PAST Cliff Robinson (1984-88) and Wes Bialosuknia (1964-67) into 8th place on UConn’s all-time scoring list.

Napier now has 1,688 career points.

— FRESHMAN CENTER Amida Brimah hardly played after halftime. Nolan was in the middle almost exclusively.

“Phil was playing great and I just wanted to stick with Phil. There’s no rhyme or reason,” Ollie 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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