Monday, December 2, 2013

Shabazz Napier Plays Role of Superman Once Again

Didn't want to do it, but had to write another column about how clutch Shabazz Napier is. Seriously, what else was there to write about? UConn's incredible 40-year unbeaten streak in non-conference, on-campus games in November/December? Well, that was my plan, until Napier's latest heroics blew that out the window.

DeAndre Daniels playing big and coming up big against a team and coach that heavily recruited him, with the huge tip to Napier that allowed him to hit his game-winning shot? That was under consideration, too.

But no, had to go with Shabazz.

Here are some notes and quotes from tonight:

Kevin Ollie: “We’re not the biggest team in America, but man, I wouldn’t trade our heart for anything.”

The Daniels tip to Napier for the game-winner "kinda reminded me of Richard Hamilton, Sweet 16"

*** Daniels, showing his sense of humor, on his tip to Napier: “Yeah, I was trying to tip it. I think they should put that in the books as an assist.”

On the rowdy, sellout crowd:

“Three years I’ve been here, that’s the best I’ve seen Gampel.”

On Napier:

“He’s amazing, he’s the best in the country, in my eyes. He’s a senior, and he wants it so bad. We’re going to follow the lead of Shabazz.”

Daniels was recruited heavily by Florida.

"I was very close to going there. I was very close to Billy Donovan. He's a great coach, a great guy. I'm actually looking for him right now, just to talk to him, see how he's doing."

Why UConn?

"When I talked to (Jim) Calhoun and Kevin Ollie, I just felt like this would be a better situation for me."

*** Napier, on his latest heroics: “As a kid, you want to be that hero. Who doesn’t? You always see highlight films of guys hitting the last shot, guys at the free throw line making the free throws. You want to be the hero, you want to be the guy that’s known as the hero at the end of the game. Who doesn’t? Growing up, I wanted to be Superman. Everybody wants to be the hero. I just felt like I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time.”

Was he Superman on Monday night?

“Nah, Superman does it on his own, I can’t do it without my teammates. They made sure I got the right picks, DeAndre put a good hand on the ball the last second. We found a way to win.”

*** Florida coach Billy Donovan:

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Napier at the end of games. I think he’s a big shot-making guy. We actually did a really good job. We made the decision that we were going to trap him. We did trap him, we got him to take a very, very difficult, off-balance shot."

"The guy that won the game for them was DeAndre Daniels. He made an unbelievable tip-out, off-balance, which kept the ball alive. We had guys on Napier that kind of ran to the rim to go defensive rebound, which left space for Napier. We needed to keep a guy there and we didn’t. But his shot really was luck, in the fact that the ball was tipped to him. If it’s tipped anywhere else, it’s out.”

On Napier's four-point play with 33 seconds left: “Watching it on film, there was no foul. But we had two opportunities to rebound the basketball.”

*** UConn's last November/December, on-campus, non-conference loss was Dec. 5, 1973, in a loss to Holy Cross. 

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December 9, 2013 at 6:34 AM 

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