I thought this would be a UConn win, but a tough, grind-it-out win and it basically was, though UConn made it look easier down the stretch. The game was tied at 32 with 10 minutes to play.
… Tough game to watch. No real offensive flow. When the game was tied, both teams were exactly 18 for 45 from the floor. UConn hit 10 of its last 17 shots. Here is the game story for the Monday Courant.
At Providence, then South Florida at Gampel, St. John’s at the Garden and Seton Hal at The Rock. How many can the Huskies win? If they run the table, they would be 17-5 when Syracuse comes on Feb. 13.
Have written about Niels Giffey before, like after the Stony Brook game, which was his best game of the season, numerically. But he continues to provide the Huskies with valuable minutes off the bench, 22 in this game. Picks up the loose change, steps in there to intercept a pass, does a lot of nice things. You know, he’s missed only one free throw all year? He’s 15 for 16. Here’s more on Giffey, for the Monday Courant.
Shabazz Napier was finally honored for his 1,000th point, scored against DePaul on Jan. 8. It kind of fell through the cracks that night, and there wasn’t a ball prepared for the Louisville game, when it was acknowledged. UConn had a ball ready and he was presented before the game. Napier held it throughout his post-game interviews, and I snapped a pic and tweeted. (@AmoreCourant)
He says he doesn’t really understand what it means, since he’s still playing, but will probably be able to reflect on it better some day. Napier is the 47th Husky to get to 1,000.
Napier said the Huskies were “playing for next year,” that the experience of this season, with no postseason, will only help UConn next year. Don’t read into it, it was not a firm commitment he was coming back. He was just answering a question about motivation.
Napier was also wearing a hat that read “us against them.” It was a gift from his girlfriend, and, Napier said, Kevin Ollie endorsed the message in the pregame moments.
Here is Kevin Ollie’s take on the game.
Napier on his injury:
“I wasn’t thinking too much about my shoulder. I was just excited about how well we were playing defense. Some shots were too short or too strong because I was trying to figure out how to compensate with the pain a little bit.”
Mike Rice, the Rutgers coach, was saying after the game that The Big East is the best guard conference in the country, “and it’s not close.” Here is some more from Rice:
“I’d like to give UConn a lot of credit. They have struggled at times to score in spurts. They found ways at the end to really put the foot on the gas and run away with it.
Our team continues to struggle with carelessness, both offensively and defensively, whether it’s 4 out of 5 possessions having turnovers – two of them being in transition – or careless with scouting reports, how we defend things, and consistency. There are times I think this team is ready to break out of it and then there’re times when we get in our own way.
Earlier on we scored enough to get it in the last 4 minutes to where anything happens in the last 4 minutes of a Big East game. Right now we can’t do that because of the fact that we keep blinking. We keep getting in our own way. In the Big East they’re too good – the guards were too good tonight – that we couldn’t get into the last 4 minutes.
We’re pressing right now. We’re not playing very well.”
The game’s slow to [Napier]. When he wants to go fast, he goes fast. When he wants to get a shot, he gets a shot. He doesn’t rush things. From last year, he’s really matured his approach and how he runs his team.
Rutgers has not won on a UConn home court since Jan. 8, 1977 in the original Civic Center, before the roof collapsed. Here is our picture gallery from the game.
Kevin Ollie thought R.J. Evans was “back to himself, doing all the little things that don’t show up in the box score.” Evans played 11 minutes, had two rebounds and an assist.
Jeff Jacobs is writing on Ray Allen’s return to Boston. That will be up on our main website this evening.