2014 NCAA Tournament: Connecticut Basketball Will Go As Far As Shabazz Napier Goes
The first day of the NCAA tournament was full of upsets, but the Connecticut Huskies avoided one of their own by defeating St. Joseph’s by a thin a margin in a 89-81 overtime victory. The man that ultimately made the difference was senior guard Shabazz Napier, who has been the main cog for the Huskies all season and will be the determining factor in how long they stay dancing this spring.
Throughout the game, it appeared that Connecticut was waiting for Napier to make the difference, and the Huskies struggled to a 40-35 halftime deficit. Ultimately, things began to change towards the end of the game as the senior guard picked up the pace and went on to score nine of Connecticut’s 19 points during the overtime period.
He finished with 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals, shooting 7-of-22 from the field and contributing four turnovers in 42 minutes of playing time, all Connecticut highs.
This statistical contribution showed all that was good and bad as the Huskies weren’t particularly effective from the field. However, they waited out St. Joseph’s by outworking them towards the end of the game and simply wearing them down. Napier epitomized this as he worked exceptionally hard despite not having his jump shot available for much of the game.
Clearly, Connecticut followed their leader, and they also limited St. Joseph’s on the defensive end by picking up the tempo later in the game.
What the dominance of Napier on the stat sheet also displayed was the lack of secondary options that Connecticut has, and how this limits them when the star guard struggles. During the regular season, only DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright even averaged 10 points per game, and while both of these guys played well vs. St. Joseph’s, they can’t take over a NCAA tournament game.
As Connecticut advances into the Round of 32 and possibly even beyond that point, there is no doubting that the Huskies will continue to be a hardworking and physical team. Ultimately, they will need an impact player to make the difference, and it is painfully obvious that this player has to be Napier. The Huskies will only go as far as the senior guard can carry them.