There was never going to be recount. No matter how well Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick performed Friday night against UConn, Shabazz Napier was still going to keep the AAC player of the year award.
Kilpatrick and the Bearcats weren’t thrilled that their man didn’t win the honor. Napier, and his teammates, obviously heard the chatter.
“We’ve got Twitter and stuff like that. We heard it,” UConn guard Ryan Boatright said. “But Bazz, he says it all the time. Some people might not believe him but I do. We know he really doesn’t care. He just wants UConn to win. He wants a national championship. That’s the only reward he wants.”
Napier didn’t quite get that Friday but he and the Huskies did get a big win, knocking off Cincinnati 58-56 at FedExForum.
Napier had step-back jumper (a la Kemba Walker, perhaps) with just over a minute to play that seemed to be the dagger. But some intense Bearcat pressure helped them close the gap.
Napier missed his second free throw with 11.1 seconds to play, giving the Bearcats a chance to tie or win it.
And Kilpatrick nearly did, racing the length of the court and putting up a short runner (a long layup?) with just a few ticks left on the clock. It looked as if it was going to drop but bounced around and off the rim just before the buzzer sounded.
“I thought it was going to down but he definitely put too much spin on it,” Napier said. “It went out the other way and the big guys were smacking the ball up in the air in case one of the guys was trying to grab it.”
— NAPIER SCORED a game-high 15 points. DeAndre Daniels added 14 and Boatright 13. Kilpatrick had 14 for Cincinnati.
The Huskies won despite taking 17 fewer shots than their opponents. UConn made 15 of its 18 free throws while Cincinnati was just 6-of-13.
“It was a good grind out win. This team is grinding. They get down, they get dirty,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said.
— BOATRIGHT AND CINCINNATI forward Titus Rubles got into a little argument after the game and were still jawing at each other as the teams left the floor (the teams use the same tunnel to reach their locker rooms).
“He’s always got something to say and you know me, I’m not ever going to back down to nobody. So I said something back,” Boatright said. “It ain’t nothing personal, it’s just basketball. And we wanted to win.”
— NEXT UP FOR the Huskies is a third date with Louisville. The Huskies were absolutely throttled a week ago at the Yum! Center 81-48.
“They played a great game down there at Louisville but we just played a horrible game,” Boatright said. “That’s why the score was like that.”
The UConn players have witnessed some of what Louisville did to its two foes this week.
“We saw the first half of today’s game when Russ (Smith) went crazy,” Boatright said, referring to Smith’s 42-point outburst earlier Friday.
Ollie also tried to dismiss last Saturday’s debacle as a major factor.
“We are going to come out and play. This is the postseason. That’s behind us,” Ollie said. “I think we’re a better team, but of course Louisville’s a better team.”
— CINCINNATI SHOT 37.9 percent from the field. UConn officially blocked eight shots but to borrow a Jim Calhoun line, they must have “altered” another half dozen.
“Amida (Brimah), DeAndre took it personal. They wanted to win individual matchups within a team concept and that’s how we got back in the game,” Ollie said.
— NAPIER WAS UPSET with himself for the late missed free throw.
“I’m happy because we won but I’m so much more of a competitor,” Napier said. “I’m upset I put my teammates in that position…..I just hate missing free throws. I hate turnovers. It’s who I am.”
— CINCINNATI COACH Mick Cronin was asked if a someone (A UConn player) had hit the net on Kilpatrick’s last shot.
“I’m already worried about Selection Sunday in the NCAA Tournament. I’m not tall enough to see stuff like that,” Cronin said. “You really think they’re going to call that for Cincinnati? What games you been watching all year? Seriously.”
— THE HUSKIES PLAYED without Tyler Olander. He was sick and stayed back at the team hotel.
— NAPIER’S 15 POINTS gave him 1,816 in his career and moved him past Corny Thompson into fifth place on UConn’s all-time scoring list.
Next up, though it’s a ways away, is Ray Allen at No. 4 with 1,922 points.
— HOW ABOUT THAT Flagrant 1 that was whistled on Brimah late in the first half? The elbow was accidental and not that hard, Brimah said.
“I wanted to post up. It was because he was too short,” Brimah said.