Nov. 16, 2012
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - Junior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) was at his best at just the right time and junior center Enosch Wolf (Gottingen, Germany) made some big plays for the first time in his college career.
It all added up to another win for the No. 23-ranked University of Connecticut basketball team and new head coach Kevin Ollie.
Napier scored all 16 of his points in the final 10 minutes and sophomore Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.) also scored 16 to lead UConn to a 77-71 victory over Wake Forest in the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam on Friday night.
UConn, which won the Paradise Jam in its last appearance at the event in 2008, now advances to the semifinals on Sunday and will face Quinnipiac, which defeated Iona in the first round. The semifinal will be played at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Connecticut will conclude tournament play on Monday against Geroge Mason or New Mexico in either the championship game (10 p.m. Eastern) or the consolation (7:30 p.m.).
Connecticut's two remaining games in the event will be televised by the CBS Sports Network and on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.
Napier scored 10 points during a 12-0 run that put the Huskies ahead for good midway through the second half. UConn (3-0) took a 65-55 lead on driving layup by sophomore DeAndre Daniels (Los Angeles, Calif.) with 6:18 remaining.
Wake Forest (1-1) pulled to 73-69 on Travis McKie's trhee-pointer with 53 seconds left, but Napier knocked down four free throws over the final 28 seconds to clinch it for UConn.
"Shabazz finally showed up for us those last (10) minutes," said Ollie, who replaced retired Huskies coach Jim Calhoun this season. "I'm glad he did."
Wolf and Daniels each added 12 points for the Huskies, while Wolf had six rebounds.
"Enosch was huge," said Ollie. "He did a wonderful job. It seemed like we had a big presence, a big fella down there. That felt good, coming down the stretch. He wanted the ball down the post. I liked his confidence."
Wolf played 25 minutes, nearly doubling his previous career high of 13, thanks largely to foul trouble incurred by starting juniro forward Tyler Olander (Masnfield, Conn.).
"I've worked hard for this, I got a chance," said Wolf. "I've got to show what I can do and keep going from here."
Codi Miller-McIntyre led the Demon Deacons with 21 points, C.J. Harris added 17 and McKie had 16.
In a back-and-forth affair that saw eight lead changes and two ties, UConn made five of its final six shots in the first half to take a 36-32 lead into halftime. Daniels had 10 points at the break. Wake Forest went on a 10-0 run, highlighted by consecutive three-pointers from McKie and Arnaud William Adala Moto, to take a 50-46 lead with 12:08 left. Napier hit a driving layup to bring the Huskies within one, then Wolf's 17-foot jumper from the wing put UConn ahead for good, 53-52.
"It was a great game, a hard-fought victory," said Ollie. "We stayed within our game plan. Defensively, I thought we made the key stops when we needed them. That's something we pride ourselves on."
Boatright led UConn with seven rebounds. The Huskies shot just three for 18 from three-point range but made 80 percent (24 for 30) of their free throws. Wake Forest went just 55 percent (12 for 22) from the foul line and turned the ball over 18 times.
McKie grabbed eight rebounds for the Demon Deacons and Devin Thomas had seven.
"Basketball's a game of runs," said McKie. "The first half was kind of evenly matched. The second half we came out and attacked. They had a late run, and we never recovered from that. They're a very good team. We have several freshmen, it's a great game for us to build on. We have another game tomorrow."