Shabazz Napier won overtime. Only fifteen seconds into the extra period, Napier drilled a three-pointer off of one of the few ball screens Cincinnati did not hedge. During the end of the first half and throughout the second half, Cincinnati made it very difficult for the UConn guards to do much as they doubled off of every screen. With this one lapse, Shabazz was able to make the three and set up his run of fire in the overtimes. In the extra period, Napier hit three three-pointers and made both of his free throw attempts to put the game away for UConn. His clutch shooting and the lack of a hedge on one play down the stretch helped UConn get the 73-66 victory over its future Big East opponent (and likely biggest rival), Cincinnati.
What Went Right
This was by no means a "pretty" game for the Huskies. UConn was poor rebounding the basketball - have we heard that before? Also they were unable to score for an eight-plus minute stretch in the second half. However, a win is a win. Napier was fantastic for the Huskies in the overtime. His leadership and clutch have won this team a number of games this season that they did not necessarily deserve to win.
A big piece for UConn's success was its ability at the free throw line. The best free throw shooting team in the Big East, the Huskies shot 21-27 and made 7-8 when the Bearcats began fouling to end the game.
DeAndre Daniels was fantastic defensively and added a much needed spark for UConn on offense. He shot well from deep; he was an effective shot-blocker and shot-alterer inside; he rebounded effectively on the defensive end in overtime.
No matter how ugly it was, UConn won a game it did not necessarily deserve to win. The Huskies were gritty on defense and did not turn the ball over. Without giving up easy points, UConn forced Cincinnati to fight for all of their points, limiting easy attempts if there was not a put back opportunity…
What Went Wrong
The Huskies were outscored 17-4 on second chance points and allowed 12 more field goal attempts. Only securing 20 rebounds and allowing 13 offensive boards is recipe for disaster. Considering how strong UConn's defense was all game, UConn could have made this game a ton simpler (that proves how good the initial defense was with how bad UConn was for most of the night offensively). Tyler Olander is struggling to get position down low. He seems to have a body, but constantly allows is man between himself and the basket. On fifty-fifty opportunities, the ball is being ripped out from his hands. Any slap, and the ball is gone. Against Syracuse, Phil Nolan was strong on the glass. Tyler has not done much offensively, could getting Nolan some more action keep Tyler with more energy? With the season nearly over, this will not carry much weight, but getting to 20 wins would be quite an accomplishment for this team and something to really give confidence into next season.
When Cincinnati's big man hedged off the high-ball screen, Ryan Boatright and Napier played confused. UConn's offense relies heavily on these two guards creating, but when double teamed, they do not have room to operate. UConn needs to find ways to quickly get passes to the screener slipping to the hoop, confusing the defense. This worked incredibly well on a pass from Omar Calhoun to a cutting Olander, leading to a dunk.
Shabazz Napier beat Cincinnati in overtime. NBA-range threes, pull ups, and off the dribble, Napier was incredible in overtime. While UConn shot 3-3 in overtime from deep (all Napier), the Bearcats shot 0-3. Overall, UConn was 10-22 from deep and Cincinnati struggled, connecting on only 6-22.
Three Stars of the Game
1.Shabazz Napier was unbelievable in overtime. I have already documented the stats, but think about these overall numbers: in 30 minutes, Napier has scored 45 points in overtime games. He is 8-12 from deep and 20-22 from the line. When the stage is big, Shabazz comes up clutch.
2.DeAndre Daniels played very well down low and scored 17 points for UConn. Daniels four blocks were all UConn had, but they were key. His strength inside was imperative to this victory. Cincinnati's guards are much bigger than UConn's and Daniels' ability to alter shots made it difficult for them to score inside.
3.Omar Calhoun has begun to come into his own late in the season. Calhoun scored ten points while leading the team in rebounds with six. His defense continues to be strong after its being a major weakness early in the season. His toughness on loose balls, aggressiveness to attack the basket, and efficient scoring has been big for UConn as of late.