Nov. 19, 2012
ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - Junior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) scored 23 of his career-high 29 points in the final 3:24 of regulation and two overtime periods and the 23rd-ranked University of Connecticut men's basketball team defeated Quinnipiac by an 89-83 win at the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam.
"It was a hard-fought victory," said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. "My hats off to the guys in the locker room, they played hard. It was just a gut-check win for us."
The Huskies now meet New Mexico for the tournament championship on Monday night at 10 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network and the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network. New Mexico topped George Mason in the other semifinal on Sunday.
UConn (4-0) trailed by 10 after Evan Conti's 3-pointer with 4:56 left in regulation. Sophomore Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.) countered with at three-point play and Napier scored 11 of the Huskies' next 13 points, including a driving layup with 4.2 seconds left.
Quinnipiac's Dave Johnson hit a three-pointer with 4.4 seconds left in the first overtime and Napier misfired on a long three-point attempt to send the game into a second OT. Napier then kicked things off with a three-pointer and the Huskies never again trailed.
"We just stuck together, kept our composure," said Napier. "I felt like the guys felt we still had a chance to win the game. Up to that point, we didn't play as well as we should have. We stepped up our game, and luckily we got some bounces our way and won the game."
UConn has now won 67 straight games against in-state foes, dating back to a Dec. 29, 1986 -- a loss to Hartford in former coach Jim Calhoun's first year at the helm. Quinnipiac (2-2), located 45 minutes from UConn, is coached by former Huskies assistant Tom Moore.
Boatright added 18 points and freshman guard Omar Calhoun (Brooklyn, N.Y.) had 17 as the guard trio accounted for 64 UConn points.
Johnson led five Bobcat players in double figures with 16 points and Garvey Young added 15.
"It's hard," said Moore. "My kids are a little devastated, because they feel they were close to beating a team that they have a lot of respect for. In tournaments like this, you don't get extra points for playing really well against a good team."
UConn hit 39 of 45 free throws, matching the highest total of made free throws in a game in program history, including 23 of its final 24. Quinnipiac, which plays in the Northeast Conference, outrebounded the Huskies, 44-35.
"They're a physical team, I know Tommy Moore preaches that," Ollie said of the Bobcats. "At the end of the day, we got the victory, and I'm very, very excited for these kids."