In Connecticut‘s Elite Eight matchup against Michigan State, the Huskies found themselves down nine points in the second half. In danger of letting the contest slip away, second-year coach Kevin Ollie was desperate for someone to stop the bleeding and lead his Huskies back into the game. There was no one better to do just that than senior guard Shabazz Napier.
Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half against the Spartans as he led UConn to a 60-54 upset victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. Connecticut will now meet top-seeded Florida in the Final Four on Saturday night.
Despite being a No. 7 seed, the Huskies came into the 2014 NCAA Tournament with one of the best players in college basketball. Napier led the team during the regular season in all major statistical categories including points per game, rebounds and assists. He has continued his dominating presence in the tournament, averaging 23 points per game to go along with big-time rebounds and assists.
Napier is giving UConn fans their own version of the movie “Groundhog Day” as this type of performance was seen only a few years ago.
In 2011, Kemba Walker led an unsuspecting Huskies team all the way to the Final Four and eventually the national title. In 2014, it’s Napier’s turn.
After the program endured academic sanctions last season that kept Connecticut out of postseason play, the Huskies have found themselves on the brink of their second title in four seasons. And in order for that dream to come true, Napier will have to perform as he has all season.
Solid guard play is key to success in March. If you go down the list of national champions, you will find that each winner (and runner-up) had stellar guard play that led their team to the title. This year, the combo of Napier and Ryan Boatright could be the dynamic duo that leads UConn to its one shining moment.
And luckily for Huskies fans, their guard combo features the best player left in the 2014 NCAA tournament.