Some notes and quotes off Friday night's stirring 2K Sports Classic championship victory
*** Shabazz Napier hit 10 baskets. Seven of them either tied the game or gave UConn the lead, including three over the final 4:21. He scored eight of the Huskies' final 11 points and 27 overall.
The kid is clutch
“That’s that Mission Hill coming out of him, that Boston," said Kevin Ollie. "He’s just a fighter, he’s just a warrior. He never gets down on himself, and I told him, he has a special gift. For him to really get to that next level, he’s got to start giving away his gift. That’s what he did.”
“It’s not all about the buckets, it’s the leadership he’s providing right now. He didn’t do that early on in his career. Now, he’s doing it. It’s just a great thing.”
“When he steps up, it’s money in the bank. Especially when he’s going left and he can get that pull-up. He’s so herky-jerky with his dribble, it kind of throws guys off.”
“We had seven overtime games last year and we won five of them and he was a big part of that, making 3’s. He just relishes the moment. Some people run away from the moments, he embraces them. It’s just a special quality to have as a young man, and a special quality to have on the basketball court.”
Tyler Olander: “I think he’s proven that ever since he was a freshman, sophomore he hit a game-winner against Villanova. Last year in overtimes, he was unreal. This is another case where, when it matters most, he steps up and puts us on his back.”
That's the thing: Napier was Kemba-clutch last season, as well, but it was all largely under the radar, as UConn spent the season in some sort of postseason-less purgatory.
*** Here's what Napier had to say afterwards:
(on his charging foul with 22 seconds left)
“It was a bonehead play for me, I should have passed it.
I don’t think it was a charge. Yogi fell, and I was going towards the basket.
With the new hand-checking rules, it’s supposed to be a foul on Yogi. But, the
ref called it an offensive foul, and I had to change my mindset and try to get
a stop. Sometimes, you get bad calls, sometimes you miss free throws when you
need it. It’s all a part of the game.”
(on being compared to Kemba Walker)
"That's my brother. I try to emulate everything that he does, but also put
my type of talent and skills on it. I’m not trying to be him, those are some
hard shoes to fill. I’m just trying to be Shabazz. If I go out there and play
the way I play, minus the free throws and minus the turnovers, I think I should
(on his seven turnovers and 3-for-7 foul shooting (5-for-his-last-11 dating back to the final 30 seconds of Thursday's win over BC)
“Honestly, when I miss free throws, that’s one thing I
worry about most, other than turnovers. When I miss ‘em,
sometimes my head wanders off and Coach Ollie’s there to tell me to forget
about it, it happens. Today I just forgot aabout it, even though I missed a ton
of them. I just told myself that my team needs me and I went out there, made some
plays, my teammates gave me the ball in right opportunities, and I was
fortunate enough to make the play.”
*** It felt had the feel of a Friday night Big East tournament game. The crowd of 10,051 was loud and electric -- and, seemingly, about 70-percent Hoosier fans.
“When I come to games, I just see a lot of
blue-and-white," said Napier. "I don’t hear any other fans or anybody else, I see a lot of
*** Late in the game, it appeared Indiana coach Tom Crean was yelling at the officials that Ollie was too far out of the coach’s box.
*** With the 2K Sports Classic championship, UConn has now won 20 in-season tournaments over the years: 13 Connecticut Mutual Classic, two Maui Invitationals, two Paradise Jams, one ECAC Holiday Festival, one Orange Bowl Festival and now this one.
*** See-saw affair: Friday’s game featured eight ties and 13 lead changes.
*** Indiana freshman Noah Vonleh, a major UConn recruiting target, was in foul trouble all night and wound up scoreless with two rebounds. He also missed the game’s last shot at the buzzer, after the Hoosiers inbounded to him with .7 seconds left on the clock.
Labels: Kemba Walker, Kevin Ollie, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Tom Crean, Tyler Olander