Shabazz Napier started out ice cold for the second consecutive game.
And, just like he did Friday, Napier put on a one-man scoring clinic and subsequently led the Huskies to the next round of the Paradise Jam. The junior guard tallied 23 of his game-high 29 points in the final 3:24 of regulation and the two overtime periods to lift UConn, 89-83, over a more-than-game Quinnipiac squad.
Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun accounted for 64 of UConn’s 89 points. The trio went 28-of-31 from the foul line, which proved to be the difference. Napier and Boatright, who together average a combined 34.8 points per game, were 1-for-16 in the first half.
“I hate when I do that,” Napier said in reference to his slow starts. “I feel like I take so many shots in the beginning and mentally I get out of the game. Coaches and players tell me to keep on shooting, keep on getting to the basket.”
Some other notes from Sunday night’s thriller:
*Kevin Ollie on Napier: “I’m looking for his effort. He didn’t do it in the first half, but he was attacking. Some of those shots were poor shots, but he was attacking and that’s what we need. I just want him to be Shabazz. Come in and play and be aggressive. I think he put a little too much pressure on himself.”
*Tom Moore on Napier and Boatright: “Those guards are very good at initiating, both of them. Both have great savvy, great IQ, great feel. They were 1-for-16 from the floor at halftime. We came in, to hold those guys to 1-for-16 from the floor, we were pretty proud of that. I thought Dave Johnson was heroic defensively…42 minutes, I ask him to just go to the wall every single trip and he will. They’re good, they’re not going to go 1-for-16 each half. They come out and bear down a little more. Shabazz makes that big 3 that wakes them up, gives them a little more hope.”
*UConn faces New Mexico, which advances equally-tense fashion, in tonight’s Paradise Jam championship game at 10 p.m. EST.