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Threes Were Key; Defense Was Glue

Shabazz Napier had a game-high 19 points vs. Stony Brook

Nov. 27, 2012

By Scott Waggoner

With a four-point play, Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier put an exclamation point on UConn’s second half three-point party, and put the game oout of reach for Stony Brook in the men’s basketball team’s 73-62 victory over the Seawolves at Gampel Pavilion Sunday.

“It was our ball game after that,” Napier said. “Everyone else got excited and enthusiastic and that always creates that effort to win the game.”

It was fitting for Napier to be the one to provide the dagger for the Huskies. With just under 11 minutes in the game and the score tied at 39-39, the junior awoke the crowd at Gampel and UConn’s shooters, hitting a three-pointer from the corner to break the tie.

The Huskies would make six of their next seven three-point shots, capped off by Napier’s thrilling and-one basket.

“I haven’t seen this team shoot like this in awhile but that’s what we needed,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said.

Despite missing 11 of their first 13 shots from three, Connecticut’s shooters never lost their confidence. UConn sophomore point guard Ryan Boatright did a good job of penetrating the lane and kicking it out to UConn’s spot up shooters.

“They were packing it in a lot on us and Boatright did a great job of finding a couple of threes for Shabazz in transition,” Ollie said.

UConn guard Niels Giffey had his best day ever as a Husky, coming off the bench to score 15 points and grab 8 rebounds.

“Giffey was my MVP and he’s been my MVP this whole year,” Ollie said. “He’s doing all the things that epitomize UConn basketball and he got rewarded today.”

The junior from Berlin, Germany, came down with crucial boards in the second half, which started the transition game for the Huskies and allowed them to get so many open looks from the three-point line.

“Games like this are going to come if you work hard,” Giffey said. “Those are the things coach preaches everyday. Today was my day.”

The Huskies can’t rely on shooting 45.5% from the three-point line every game, though Connecticut shot the ball in the second half as well as they have all season.

Ollie attributes his team’s shooting success to great passing by the UConn guards.

“I hope this is a catapult for things to come,” Ollie said. “Hopefully we are able to have the three-point line as something to break games open. Our spacing was great today.”

When Connecticut was unable to knock down shots early, UConn showed a defensive toughness that has kept them in the game. The Huskies made only two field goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, though they never trailed Stony Brook by more than eight points the entire first half.

“We missed some shots but I praise that we were playing defense,” Ollie said. “There are never any droughts on defense. We haven’t been shooting the ball well but our defense has been keeping us in games.”

UConn will look to continue their hot shooting Thursday when they face the University of New Hampshire. The game will be played at the XL Center with tipoff set for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on SNY and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.