Dec. 5, 2012
NEW YORK - Univeresity of Connecticut men's basketball sophomore guard Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.) wasn't mincing words when he explained what happened in the Huskies' 69-65 loss to No. 25 North Carolina State on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden before a crowd of 11,840.
"It was nothing they did. We lost that game," said Boatright. Junior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) led the Huskies with 19 points and Boatright added 18. The two combined to take 34 of the Huskies' 62 shots from the field and they made 14 of Connecticut's 25 field goals.
"They're important. They are the focal point of our offense, but we do need other guys to step up," first-year Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. "What we have is enough in the locker room and our guards are the leaders, but we need other people to step up."
One player who did was junior center Enosch Wolf (Goettingen, Germany), who had 22 points total entering the game. He finished with 12, matching his career high, and a career-best nine rebounds. He was six for eight from the field for the Huskies and that included a couple of jumpers where he leaned back and stuck a leg out.
"Seems like he likes the big stage," Ollie said of Wolf. "He has confidence, gets to his spots and knows his limitations, which is a great strength. He boxed out and played hard. He plays aggressively and we need that."
Richard Howell led North Carolina State's second-half rush to the boards. The Wolfpack had 20 rebounds in the second half, 11 on the offensive end - and Howell grabbed seven of those. The Huskies had 13 rebounds in the second half, six offensive.
North Carolina State improves to 5-2 on the season while the Huskies drop to 6-2 -- with both losses coming to teams in the current top 25.
"I think this was a gutsy win and I thought we really defended better in the second half," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "First half, (Connecticut's) rebounding killed us. We were not rebounding the ball nearly as well as we can and they did a great job."
Howell led North Carolina State's second-half rush to the boards. The Wolfpack had 20 rebounds in the second half, 11 on the offensive end - and Howell grabbed seven of those. The Huskies had 13 rebounds in the second half, six offensive.
"They got the 50-50 balls. They boxed out and Howell got some loose balls," Ollie said. "I wouldn't say they out-toughed us. They made more plays, winning plays, when it counted."
Napier scored Connecticut's first 10 points of the game and led the Huskies to an 11-point lead. The Wolfpack later used an 11-2 run that brought them within one and they led 32-31 at halftime.
There were three ties from 8:19 to 5:14, when Leslie made two free throws for a 55-53 lead the Wolfpack never relinquished.
"I felt like we lost our intensity in the second half," Napier said. "They got a lot of offensive rebounds, Howell and Leslie got most of them in the second half. You're supposed to pick yourself up in the second half and we fell short.
"I can't stress enough that the intensity wasn't there. We let down big time. That speaks that we weren't ready in the second half."
Lorenzo Brown had 16 points for North Carolina State and Scott Wood had 13.
Both programs had a connection to the doubleheader that is part of ESPN's week of raising money for the V Foundation as it continues to help in the fight against cancer.
Jim Valvano's signature moment came in 1983 when the Wolfpack won the national championship on a dunk by Lorenzo Charles at the buzzer and Valvano ran around the court looking for someone to hug. His first full-time coaching job came as an assistant at Connecticut.
UConn returns to action on Friday when it plays Harvard at Gampel Pavilion at 7:00 p.m. The game will be televised on SNY and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.