Rushed Reactions: #7 Connecticut 89, #10 Saint Joseph’s 81 (OT)Posted by Walker Carey on March 20th, 2014
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Three Key Takeaways.
- Shabazz Napier was not great, but showed why he’s a great player. The UConn star struggled to find his shot for most of the evening, finishing 7-of-22 from the field and airballing a couple of his attempts. But in the overtime period when his team needed him most, the AAC Player of the Year scored five straight points – including a difficult and-1 play that not too many guys could finish – to all but seal the victory. He ended the game with 24 points, eight boards, six assists, and hit all eight of his free throws. The Huskies go as their senior leader goes, and we’ll see just how far that takes them this month.
- DeAndre Daniels needs to keep showing up. Daniels was big tonight, scoring 18 points and hitting three big triples to keep the margin close when Saint Joe’s appeared to be in control of the game. The former five-star recruit has been inconsistent throughout the season/career, but he had himself a nice AAC Tournament and continued doing good things today against the Hawks. If he can become a consistent offensive weapon, the ceiling on this team is undoubtedly higher. Ryan Boatright was also sharp from behind the arc, knocking down four of his eight attempts and helping the Huskies to a team-wide 11-of-24 from distance.
- Saint Joseph’s ran out of gas. The Hawks have virtually no depth, ranking dead last in the country in bench minutes, so they were at an immediate disadvantage when this game went to overtime. Not only were they gassed, but Halil Kanacevic was in foul trouble, so when he picked up his fifth in the opening minute of the extra period, it spelled doom for Martelli’s club. Sure enough, UConn rolled from that point onward. All told, Saint Joseph’s received a total of nine minutes – yes, nine minutes – from its bench in 45 minutes of basketball.
Star of the Game. Shabazz Napier (24 points, eight rebounds, six assists). Again, Napier was far from perfect, but he made the crucial plays in crucial situations. Several of his layups down the stretch seemed nearly impossible and demonstrated why he is one of the best guards in America.
Quotable. “That 18 inches is a lot.” – Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie said Wednesday, discussing his move from assistant to head coach last season. One day later, he captured his first NCAA Tournament victory, sure to make Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun proud.
Sights & Sounds. Atlantic 10 fans really come out to support their schools. The Dayton crowd was full of energy during the noon session, and Saint Joseph’s fans were unarguably louder than UConn backers throughout the game tonight. With six teams reaching the Dance and a lot of really good basketball tradition, this league should remain successful for a long time, so long as there are no more pillages.
Wildcard. Saint Joe’s mascot – ‘The Hawk’ – really does just keep flapping and flapping and flapping. All. Game. Long.
What’s Next? UConn gets the winner of Villanova vs. Milwaukee on Saturday. If it ends up being the Wildcats, that should make for an excellent Big East reunion game between two tough, highly-competitive squads. The Huskies will probably need to shore up their normally-stingy defense, although they allowed 1.12 points per possession in this game, well above their season norm.