Sneaking out of the Sun Dome but here are some quick reactions from the Huskies after their 61-56 win over South Florida Wednesday night.
— APPARENTLY HIS PERFORMANCE on the court was only the public show. Shabazz Napier was just as good behind the scenes, especially at halftime.
“Shabazz got on us. He told us that we have to play better. No matter how many shots we miss, we have to keep shooting it with confidence,” UConn guard Terrence Samuel said. “He said he loved us and we’re going to make it to the championship. And we all believed him and came out and got the W.”
We’re not sure which “championship” Napier was referring to but as heat-of-the-moment lines go, it was probably a good one.
Oh, and he backed it up with 17 points, seven assists, four rebounds, two circus layups and a game-securing 3-pointer.
“Shabazz down the stretch just took over the game, like an All-American should. And he was an All-American tonight,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said.
Napier scored 11 of UConn’s final 14 points.
“That guy, to me, is the player of the year,” USF forward Victor Rudd said. “He’s the reason why their team is as good as it is.”
Ryan Boatright added 14 points and Niels Giffey 11 for UConn (22-6, 10-5 AAC).
Napier said he was just trying to fire his guys up at the half.
“Right now we’re in a little rough spot. We’re not playing to our capabilities. We’re missing shots,” Napier said. “I just told guys we can’t allow that to hurt us defensively.”
“I was just letting guys know that I’m not satisfied with where we’re at,” Napier said. “They understand I’m just passionate.”
— THE HUSKIES RALLIED using an odd tool, a 2-3 zone.
Like Jim Calhoun before him, Ollie doesn’t really like the defense. But, like Calhoun, he’ll use it in a pinch.
“We always practice it just so we can have it in our back pocket,” Boatright said. “And we needed it today. Thanks to K.O. (Ollie) for making us do it when we don’t feel like it.”
— IF YOU THOUGHT UConn fans were upset with the foul called on Boatright for hitting USF’s Josh Heath on a late 3-point attempt, just as the guard himself.
“Oh, God. I couldn’t believe he called that. I was like four feet away from him (Heath),” Boatright said. “I asked (the official) what did you see? He said ‘I didn’t see anything, I heard it.’ I said ‘What did you hear?’ And he said ‘I heard a noise.’ So I said ‘You heard the ball.’
“I don’t know, it was just a bad call.”
Even Heath admitted he didn’t think it was a foul.
“Yeah. But the ref was sure even after it happened,” Heath said.
— FORMER UCONN PLAYER Willie McCloud (1987-89) was at the game and chatted with some of the coaches after.
— AFTER NOT PLAYING much lately Tyler Olander spent 21 minutes on the court Wednesday. It was his most since playing 24 against Indiana Nov. 22.
— THERE WAS PLENTY of praise for the job Samuel did from all involved. Check out tomorrows JI for the rest.