On Sunday afternoon, the Connecticut Huskies pulled off a great comeback on the way to a 60-54 victory over the Michigan State Spartans, showing great fight and team wide unity along the way. With the win, Connecticut advances to the Final Four where they will face off against the Florida Gators, and they should feel confident in their chances to pull off an epic run to win the NCAA Tournament.
Throughout Sunday’s victory, the Huskies were predictably led by senior guard Shabazz Napier who contributed 25 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal and went 4-for-9 on three-point field goals. While this performance was absolutely great on paper, the ability of Napier to show great pressure on the defensive end of the ball really put the clamp down on the Spartans’ offense during the second half of the game. The senior seemingly was everywhere at the same time, and after averaging 23.3 points, six rebounds, 4.5 assists and four steals per game during the NCAA Tournament, there is no doubting he is the hottest player in the tournament.
As a unit the Huskies showed great fight after trailing 25-21 at halftime and 49-39 with only 6:00 left in the second half. It was clear that their defensive acumen was a big reason why. For the whole of the night, Connecticut forced Michigan State to turn the ball over 16 times, and along the way they stopped the Spartans’ potent transition offense by closing down holes and forcing quick passes. Alongside Napier, the likes of Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels and Niels Giffey all maintained persistent pressure on the ball, and they were selfless enough to work hard through tough times.
This combination of great defense and the impact punch of Napier on the offensive end is really what has guided the Huskies to make it this far, and this combination is clearly made to succeed. After all, Connecticut does have an 11-2 record when their star guard scores at least 20 points, and for the whole of the year they have allowed a mere 63.7 points per game against. The team couldn’t be described as a one man show, but they are certainly approaching that point.
The Huskies have now picked up four very close victories in the NCAA Tournament at the hands of St. Joseph’s, Villanova, Iowa State and Michigan State, and they have arguably the hottest player in college basketball firing on all cylinders. There is no doubting this will have Connecticut feeling very confident as they prepare to face off against Florida on Apr. 5 which shows that despite being a No. 7 seed, they could very well become the NCAA Tournament champions.