TAMPA, FLA. — An otherwise unforgettable year — Shabazz Napier’s overtime heroics, Kevin Ollie’s tryout turned long-term deal, the hard-fought victories in the face of a postseason ban — is nearing a very forgettable end.
For the first time, UConn looked like it wasn’t playing for anything.
A 21-4 South Florida run in the second half—complete with alley-oops, 3-pointers and certainly supplemented by lackluster UConn defense—propelled the hapless Bulls, who entered tied for last place in the Big East, to a 65-51 victory Wednesday at the Sun Dome.
Shabazz Napier (sprained foot) missed his second consecutive game, joining fellow junior Niels Giffey (fractured finger) on the bench in a dress shirt in jeans.
Without them, UConn suffered on both ends: Ryan Boatright had trouble creating on offense and the Huskies’ help defense was often non-existent. With the rout on late in the second half, Bulls forward Victor Rudd drove down the lane and DeAndre Daniels—UConn’s lone bright spot—simply stepped to the side. Rudd’s dunk put the Bulls up 61-44, the exclamation point on UConn’s most lopsided loss since a 15-point defeat against Louisville in early January.
Martino Brock scored 18 and Rudd added 17 to pace USF.
In the wake of UConn’s injuries, Daniels assumed a larger offensive role, tallying 13 of UConn’s final 15 points in the first half. A long, versatile 6-foot-8 swingman, Daniels showcased his wide range of offensive skills: He collected an offensive rebound on the perimeter, took a second to gather himself and buried a 3-pointer with 5:45 remaining in the half, his 13th point of the night. He finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, just the second double-double of UConn’s season.
At the 18:31 mark of the second half, he spun through two South Florida defenders for a bank shot in the lane that gave UConn a 30-28 lead, its first of the game.
But South Florida quickly administered its run and the Huskies played catch-up the rest of the way.
The backcourt duo of Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun went a combined 4-for-27 from the field. Calhoun, bothered by a sprained right wrist, was 1-for-13 from the field and 1-for-9 from 3-point range
Fifth-year senior R.J. Evans, who earned his second straight start, bulled into the lane for 10 points and added five rebounds.