Thursday, March 20, 2014

UConn Survives, Advances over St. Joe's

St. Joseph's may have played better in regulation, but UConn got it to overtime and hit 15 of 16 free throws in the extra session to survive and advance with a "second-round" NCAA tourney win on Thursday.

Shabazz Napier had a game-high 24 points and a crucial seven straight UConn points in OT to keep his career alive. DeAndre Daniels had 18 points and Ryan Boatright was probably the Huskies' best player, with 17 points, four 3-pointers and one of the better assists we've seen all season for an Amida Brimah dunk.

But Brimah made the play of the game: A 3-point play with 39 seconds left in regulation to tie the game.

*** Best postgame exchange came during Kevin Ollie's presser. A reporter asked him how it felt to be the "first coach at UConn to win a tournament game since Dom Perno in '79."

Ollie's looked befuddled and responded: "Coach Calhoun won three national championships, so I think he won a couple of games in the tournament."

Reporter: "You're the first one other than Jim."

Ollie: "That sounds better. You were scaring me at first. Don't let Coach Calhoun hear that, either. It'll be hard."

(Incidentally, it was actually the first non-Calhoun-coached UConn tourney win since Dee Rowe over Hofstra on March 13, 1976. George Blaney's tourney wins count towards Calhoun's record).

*** In a touching story, Shabazz Napier put a heartfelt video message on YouTube last week for Wallingford's Connor Reed, a Sheehan High senior who was recently stricken by a rare, auto-immune disease.

Shabazz's message helps inspire Reed as he rehabs.

"I watch that video every day," he said.

Meanwhile, Reed's story of overcoming a debilitating disease (he's almost walking again) has inspired many -- including Napier himself.

Here's the video:

And here's the story.

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