Shabazz Napier Goes Off in Overtime, Elevates Connecticut Over Cincinnati

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What is it with score-first point guards from UConn having a flair for the dramatic?

Much like we saw with Kemba Walker in the 2010-2011 season, Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier has been on a tear in the clutch this season, and an 11-point effort in overtime led his Huskies over Cincinnati Thursday night by a score of 73-66.

“He just likes the big moments.  And it goes back to him having that self-confidence and that belief system.  It’s a physiology with him.  It’s a mind state.  In that overtime, he just thinks he can make the shot.  And I think he just wills himself to make those,” raved first-year head coach Kevin Ollie after the thrilling victory. “Whenever we need a big shot he’s right there. He’s a leader who has no fear of failure.”

According to David Borges of the New Haven Register, in six overtime periods this season, Napier has scored 46 points on 9-for-14 shooting (not to mention an outstanding 8-for-12 from three), and has gone 20-of-22 from the charity stripe. Making up for more than half of the Huskies’ 83 overtime points on the year.

While the box score will show you that Napier really played big when it mattered, the play-by-play very much reflects the same from Thursday’s win. Not only did Napier force overtime with a layup down-two with just about 45-seconds to go in regulation, but he personally buried the Bearcats in overtime, outscoring the entire team 9-5 in the first four minutes of the extra period. None of which would have been possible if a shot he put up towards the end of regulation didn’t literally roll out of the rim.

Walker, I mean Napier, was humble as pie after the win, and praised his teammates for allowing him to will the team to victory.

“I think guys understand that I try to be the best leader for this team and look for me to hit down those shots.  I’m just lucky my teammates have so much confidence in me.”

They may not be eligible to be the postseason darlings in 2013 like they were in 2011, but that doesn’t mean the magic isn’t back in Storrs heading into March.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth