Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shabazz Napier: Always Interesting After a Loss

Shabazz Napier missed three 3-pointers over the final 41 seconds Wednesday night, then gave up one final trey attempt to Omar Calhoun, who front-rimmed about a 25-footer. And now, UConn has its first loss of the season.

There was bound to be a game where Napier's back-breaking treys didn't fall. Heck, it essentially happened against Florida, though a somewhat lucky bounce (and DeAndre Daniels tip) allowed Napier to emerge the hero again in that one.

Bottom line: UConn couldn't do anything against Stanford's long, extended zone in the second half (16 percent shooting, 0-for-12 on 3's). The Huskies are really getting nothing from their big men, and when they have to rely on 3's that aren't falling (and Shabazz to bail them out), it's simply not going to work every time.

Here's what Napier had to say after the loss:

“I wasn’t able to knock down the shot, none of us were able to knock down the shots. I’m kind of upset with the way I played in the second half, the way I ran my team in the second half. I really felt like this was going to be a good win for us, and I didn’t come through.

"All I can do is be mad at myself, learn from it, not put too much blame on myself like I usually do, but just take it and understand what I could’ve done better and move along.

“I felt like I kind of had two open 3’s, and coach was stressing to go to the basket. As you can see, I didn’t go. I should have, but I was kind of unable to go. They were in a zone at the end and we just played a bad second half. It kind of caught up to us.”

(on giving the ball to Calhoun on the last-second shot)

“Somebody was on me. I always have confidence in myself, no matter if I go 0-for-20, I always feel like I can make the next shot. Guys were just crowded on the right side, and it was actually 3-on-2 on that entire right side. Omar was the guy with the easiest pickings. It was a very far shot, but I definitely believe in each and every guy that they can take that shot. I thought it was going to go in, we all did. We believe in each other, but we just fell short.”

(on his inability to drive to the hole)

“I felt like I was getting fouled, but I guess the rules aren’t in place like I thought they were. There was a lot of hand-checking, I thought, but you’ve got to keep playing on. I started settling for shots, and they just weren’t going for me today.”

(on bouncing back from a loss)

“I think this team is resilient. We understand that we weren’t going to go through the whole season undefeated. We’ve got a good game against Washington on Sunday. We’ve got to be ready for that one. We can’t be hanging our heads on a good team that beat us.”

(on why the Huskies couldn't run the ball in the second half like they did in the first)

“We stopped running and stopped rebounding the ball well. That’s the biggest thing. We kind of beat them down the court a couple of times and got them tired. Their starting five plays about 38 minutes. We had them tired a little bit, but we didn’t do so in the second half. That’s my bad, I didn’t run the team the right way.”

(on his tiff with Anthony Brown late in the game)

“Yeah, but I guess the refs aren’t going to call it. I should have flopped like I played soccer, but I didn’t.”

*** And here's what Kevin Ollie had to say:

“I wanted him to go to the basket. With Shabazz, you live with that, because he’s put this team on his back a lot of times. But, he could have taken it to the basket a couple of times. But he settled for the long 3-ball, and that wasn’t goin in tonight. So, you have to make adjustments as a player and as a coach. We just didn’t make those game-winning adjustments.”

"Just a tough shooting night. I can’t even blame it on the layoff. We came out and played well, had a 10-point lead at halftime, pushed it up to 13, and then, like we’ve been doing, we play in spurts and we let the team back in. Once they smelled that they could play with us, they took it to us. Their zone was effective, we missed

“Disappointing loss, but in life, you’ve got to keep coming at it, you’ve got to keep fighting. I just wish we had better ball movement, better 3’s, and wish we could have taken it to the rack a little more and got them in foul trouble. Hopefully, we learn from this.”

“We missed shots, we had open shots. It wasn’t hard at all. We took some ill-advised 3’s. They were running a circle zone, they did a good job with their length, closing up gaps, closing up areas. We never got it in the four-hole, the middle at the free throw line, and exposed that. When that happens and you start missing, you start pressing a little bit, that’s what happens.”

“We didn’t have the toughness that it takes to win this game. I hate saying that, because I pride myself on toughness and togetherness, and we just didn’t have it in the second half – mentally and physically.”

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