Shabazz Napier just keeps on rolling. The senior star point guard had 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists before exiting the game with just over 10 minutes to go to lead the Connecticut Huskies in a lopsided 80-43 rout over the Houston Cougars on Thursday night. After shockingly losing their first meeting, the Huskies were in control throughout the duration of the contest and absolutely left no question as to who was the better team. The Huskies are now 17-4 on the season and 5-3 in the AAC.
For the first time this season, the Huskies dominated the glass, finishing with a 55-to-40 advantage. Napier, who leads the team in rebounding, tied with Kentan Facey and Phillip Nolan with seven rebounds apiece as the Huskies capitalized off of horrid shooting from Houston. The Cougars finished an awful 27.3 percent from the field and just 2-of-18 from three-point range, or 11.1 percent for the game. UConn made an early commitment to defense, and it ultimately paid off in a big way.
Ryan Boatright chimed in with 15 points and four assists as Connecticut’s backcourt tandem once again delivered a big game. Niels Giffey, staring in place of the injured DeAndre Daniels, added 10 points while Nolan played his most efficient game of the season, scoring 10 points and pulling down seven rebounds in just 16 minutes of action.
Omar Calhoun continued to struggle, scoring just one point while shooting 0-for-4 from the field in getting 18 minutes of playing time. He looked out of place and out of sync completely and even missed a wide open layup opportunity. What’s more concerning to UConn fans is that he laughed it off afterwards. If I was once a starter as a freshman, had huge potential for this season and am now demoted and trying to scrap for playing time, smiling is probably the last thing I would do.
Amida Brimah started yet again but only scored four points and had three rebounds in 15 minutes. Kevin Ollie needs to figure out a more appropriate rotation. If that involved Nolan getting more minutes because of his ability to score on the low block or if it means giving those minutes to Brimah for defensive purposes, so be it. Having each player wonder how much they will play and in what situations from game to game is not a recipe for success. Players on great teams know their specific roles, and great coaches make that happen.
The Huskies travel to the No. 13 Cincinnati Bearcats on Feb. 6. Tip off is at 7:00 p.m. ET.