STORRS, Conn. - University of Connecticut senior gaurd Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) hit a jumper from the free throw line as time expired to keep the No. 12-ranked University of Connecticut men's basketball team undefeated with a 65-64 victory over No. 15 Florida on Monday night before a sold out crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion.
Napier, limping on a left ankle he hurt during a four-point play with 33 seconds left, escaped a trap around 30 feet from the basket and got off a wild shot that missed but was tipped blindly back by junior forward DeAndre Daniels (Los Angeles, Calif.). Napier grabbed the ball and let go a left-handed jumper that went through as the horn sounded and set off a deafening cheer from the sellout crowd.
Napier finished with 26 points on nine-of-15 shooting including making five of eight from three-point range. The Huskies are 8-0 on the season while the Gators fall to 6-2.
UConn's eight wins this year include two over ACC teams (Maryland, Boston College) and one each from the Big Ten (Indiana) and now the SEC with Florida.
The Huskies and Florida battled down the stretch exchanging the lead six times in the final 6 minutes. Daniels had 14 points for Connecticut, which was outrebounded 34-26, but was able to make up a size difference with its strong guard play on the perimeter.
Casey Prather had 19 points and seven rebounds for the Gators, while Patric Young had 17 points and seven rebounds. Scottie Wilbekin, playing in his third game of the season after being suspended for the first four, had 15 points but he injured an ankle with 3:01 to play, was taken to the locker room and never returned.
After Wilbekin left Young took over, scoring the Gators' next seven points, two baskets on his hook shot and another on an offensive rebound, which made it 62-59 Florida with 1:18 to play.
UConn missed two three-point attempts but got the rebound on both. Napier took a 25-foot jumper that swished and he was fouled by Dorian Finney-Smith. The joy of the crowd was tempered as Napier stayed on the court for about a minute, holding his left ankle.
UConn head coach Kevin Ollie called a timeout so Napier could stay in the game and take the free throw. He made it to give the Huskies a 63-62 lead with 33 seconds left. Michael Frazier II, with Connecticut paying a lot of attention to Young inside, drove to the basket and scored with 17 seconds left to give the Gators a 64-63 lead.
The ball was in Napier's hands for the final shot and he finally did score after Daniels tipped the ball back to him.
Florida outscored the Huskies 32-14 in the paint as Connecticut struggled to defend Young, who was 6 of 10 from the field. Florida committed 16 turnovers, two more than the Huskies in a game that was physical on all 94 feet of the court.
UConn returns to action on Friday when it plays host to Maine at the XL Center in Hartford at 7:00 p.m. The game will be televised on SNY and heard on the UConn IMG Sprots Radio Network.
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