March 05, 2014
STORRS, Conn. - University of Connecticut senior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) scored 26 points in his final home game, leading 19th-ranked UConn to a 69-63 win over Rutgers on Wednesday night in front of a crowd of 10,167 at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies improve to 24-6 overall and 12-5 in conference place with the victory.
The UConn guard made a career-high seven 3-pointers and hit eight of his 13 shots from the floor.
Senior forward Niels Giffey (Berlin, Germany) added a career-high 16 points for the Huskies, who have won three in a row and seven of their last eight games.
Miles Mack scored 16 points for Rutgers (11-19, 5-11), which hasn't beaten the Huskies in Storrs since 1972. Wally Judge added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Connecticut led by three points at halftime and held that lead at 56-53, before going on an 8-0 run. Two dunks by UConn sophomore forward Philip Nolan (Milwaukee, Wis.) made it 64-53 UConn and forced Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan to call a timeout.
The Scarlet Knights began chipping away at the lead, and cut the lead to 67-63 when Kadeem Jack stepped in front of a pass by junior forward DeAndre Daniels (Los Angeles, Calif.) and made a dunk at the other end with a minute left in the game.
But Daniels blocked a layup attempt by Judge on Rutgers next possession and hit a free throw on the other end. Nolan then drew a charge on the baseline, and Napier sealed the game from the foul line as the fans chanted "M-V-P."
UConn shot 47 percent from the field, while Rutgers hit on 44 percent, after making just one of their first nine shots, as the Huskies jumped out to an early 10-3 lead. Rutgers got hot after that, scoring the next eight points to take the lead.
The crowd got into the game after Connecticut freshman center Amida Brimah (Accra, Ghana) blocked a shot into the first row, and another one off the backboard, forcing a shot-clock violation on Rutgers. That sparked an 8-2 run that gave UConn a 27-20 advantage.
The teams started trading 3-pointers, hitting 14 of them before intermission.
Napier made 4 of 6 and Giffey was 3 of 6, helping UConn to a 34-31 lead at halftime. UConn finshed 12 of 25 from behind the arc. Rutgers was 8 of 18.
Connecticut came into the game with a remote shot at a share of the American Conference championship. They were in fourth place in the conference, a game behind SMU, a team that has beaten the Huskies twice.
Rutgers, the seventh seed in the conference tournament, hosts Cincinnati on Saturday.
Napier needs just two points to catch Kemba Walker and move into seventh place on the school's all-time scoring list. His four assists Wednesday put him just nine behind coach Kevin Ollie for third place on that list.
The Huskies return to action Saturday when they face No. 11 Louisville on the road at the KFC Yum! Center. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. and the game can be seen on CBS and heard on the UConn IMG Radio Network.