Balanced Effort Leads Connecticut Huskies Over Eastern Washington

By Daniel Karpuc
Shabazz Napier
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey, Omar Calhoun, and Phillip Nolan all scored in double-figures as the No. 15 Connecticut Huskies topped the Eastern Washington Eagles at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT on Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Huskies move to 11-1 on the season, while the Eagles fall to 5-6.

It seems as though Kevin Ollie is growing as a coach, as he is finding the right rotations and combinations to put on the court at the same time. Today, he started Giffey for the struggling Calhoun, and the starting lineup of Napier, Boatright, Giffey, DeAndre Daniels and Amida Brimah might be the best going forward for the team. Although Brimah only played five minutes, it appears that Nolan is more comfortable coming off the bench, as he scored 11 points and had six rebounds in 22 minutes of action. He also went 7-for-7 from the charity stripe. I’d keep Nolan coming off the bench in this role. Calhoun and Lasan Kromah also coming off the bench allow for Ollie to play towards matchups and have confidence that players off the pine can come in and provide instant offense.

Napier had 15 points and nine assists in 35 minutes to go along with Boatright’s 14 points. The two also had a combined five steals and have solidified the spot as one of the nation’s most dynamic backcourt tandems.

Giffey played very well in his first start of the season, scoring 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting, hitting the only three-pointer he took. His 30 minutes played was second on the team, and I really think he belongs in the starting lineup from here on out, as his experience playing on the German National Team this past summer will really allow him to be a force both offensively and defensively when American Athletic Conference play begins in a few days. On the season, he is shooting an absurd 68.5 percent from the field, going 37-of-54, and 65.6 percent from three-point range, shooting 21-of-32. If he keeps this up, I like to think that an NBA team might scoop him up in the late second round of the 2014 Draft.

Defensively, especially on the boards, UConn still had some issues, giving up 16 offensive rebounds. If this team wants to contend and remain at the top of the AAC, they’re going to have to get physical and push people around and get those rebounds. Otherwise, it can be a rough experience for this squad, starting on Dec. 31, when they travel to Hofheinz Pavilion to take on the Houston Cougars. Tip off is at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Dan Karpuc is the Connecticut Huskies beat writer for Follow him on Twitter @dan_karpuc, “Like” him on Facebook, and add him to your network on Google.

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