ST. THOMAS, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — After winning three nail-biters in the first two weeks of the season, UConn finally was outplayed down the stretch.
New Mexico, which trailed 55-53 with 2:23 remaining, went on a 9-0 run to K.O. the Huskies and hand them a 66-60 defeat in Monday’s Paradise Jam championship.
UConn, which drops to 3-1, played from behind for most of the second half. The Lobos (4-0) drilled a trio of 3-pointers in the opening minutes to open a 39-29 advantage.
Fueled by another one-man show from Shabazz Napier, UConn clawed back, cutting into a double-digit deficit and eventually taking the lead on three Ryan Boatright free throws. New Mexico’s Hugh Greenwood answered with a straight-away 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, and UConn never led afterwards. Although the Lobos hit just 7-of-22 attempts, all seemed to come at crucial moments.
It took Napier 16 minutes to score his first basket (actually an improvement from past games), but once again, he carried UConn offensively, slicing New Mexico’s zone inside and out defense for 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Ryan Boatright, relatively quiet for most of the tournament, added 12.
Foul trouble was a problem for Tyler Olander throughout the tournament, and Monday’s title game was no different. He played just seven minutes in the first half and was sent to the bench early in the second after picking up his third foul. The 6-foot-10 junior fouled out on a charge with 1:13 left and his Huskies trailing 58-55. He finished with two points and zero rebounds. As a whole, the frontcourt contributed just 15 points, and nine were from DeAndre Daniels.
Both teams, coming off emotional, late-night victories in the semifinals came out flat: There were 15 combined turnovers before either team had reached 15 points.
After going 39-45 from the free throw line versus Quinnipiac, UConn got to the tripe just nine times. New Mexico, on the other hand, converted all 21 of its attempts.
Lobos guard Kendall Williams (15 points) was named the tournament MVP. Napier and Boatright were named to the all-tournament team.