March 7, 2012
NEW YORK (AP) - Sophomore Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) scored 26 points and sophomore Jeremy Lamb (Nocross, Ga.) added 22 to lead the University of Connecticut men's basketball team to its 12th-straight postseason win, a 71-67 in overtime over West Virginia on Wednesday in the second round of the BIG EAST tournament.
The victory kept alive the hopes of a second-straight BIG EAST title for the Huskies (20-12), who won a record five games in as many days last year and then went on to win six more in earning the school's third national championship.
Kevin Jones had 25 points for the eighth-seeded Mountaineers (19-13), who were playing their last game as a member of the BIG EAST. West Virginia leaves the conference for the Big 12 next season.
Ninth-seeded Connecticut will play top-seeded and second-ranked Syracuse in the quarterfinals Thursday at Madison Square Garden at noon. The game will be televised by ESPN and heard on the WTIC-UConn Radio Network.
The last time these schools met in the quarterfinals was 2009 when Syracuse prevailed 127-117 in six overtimes. They met last year in the semifinals, a 76-71 Connecticut win that went one overtime.
Napier, who fouled out with 2:35 left in OT, scored all the points in a 9-0 run that brought the Huskies even at 63 with 2:10 left in regulation. He capped the run with consecutive steals at midcourt from Gary Browne and went in for layups on both.
Napier had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but after dribbling away near midcourt with a few seconds left, his NBA-length 3-point attempt went off the rim.
Lamb, who had 25 points in the opening-round win over DePaul, broke the game's final tie with a three-pointer with 1:04 left. Freshman Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.) had two chances to add to Connecticut's lead and made one of four free throws. The one he hit made it 71-67 with 19 seconds left and West Virginia missed three three-point attempts, trying to draw a possible foul that would give it a chance to tie the game.
Last year's 11-game winning streak was coordinated by guard Kemba Walker, who is now with Charlotte in the NBA. Napier and Lamb both gave performances that were sure to stir memories of what Walker did last season. The Huskies are 3-0 since the return of coach Jim Calhoun, who missed eight games with spinal stenosis. He had back surgery Feb. 27.
West Virginia dominated the rebounding against Connecticut finishing with a 47-31 edge, including 26-8 on the offensive end. The Mountaineers, however, shot just 34.7 percent overall and made only three of 19 3-point attempts.
The Huskies shot 49 percent from the field, including seven of 18 from three-point range with Napier making four of 10 and Lamb three of eight.
Jones, who led the BIG EAST in scoring (19.0) and rebounding (10.9), had 10 rebounds, one less than Dominique Rutledge.