Napier Leads Huskies Second-Half Comeback Over Seton Hall
TOM CANAVAN,AP Sports Writer
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The blizzard that dumped almost three feet of snow in Connecticut forced the men’s basketball team to ride the bus to New Jersey for five to six hours on Saturday for a game against Seton Hall, so it’s not surprising the Huskies appeared a little out of sorts.
Connecticut needed a little time to find its game and once Shabazz Napier took over, the Huskies were more than enough for struggling Seton Hall.
Napier had 22 points, nine assists and six steals and led a second-half comeback that carried Connecticut to a 78-67 victory over Seton Hall on Sunday.
“We feed off him and feed off his energy,” said Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, who had to be picked up in Hartford by the team bus because he could not get to the campus in Storrs. “That’s what the great ones do. When you need him, he’s there. He’s been consistent all year. He’s doing a great job leading this team, and without him I don’t know where we’d be.”
Ryan Boatright added 20 points and Omar Calhoun had 10 points as the Huskies (16-6, 6-4 Big East) rallied from a seven-point deficit and handed Seton Hall (13-11, 2-9) its fifth straight loss and ninth in 10 games.
Aaron Cosby had a career-high 25 points to lead Seton Hall, while Fuquan Edwin, playing with a sprained ankle, added 19 points.
Napier scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and finished 8 of 12 from the field while playing 39 minutes. He hit a free throw, a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer in a 9-0 run that gave Connecticut the lead for good.
“The first half, I wanted to be more of a distributor and I didn’t want to mess up the chemistry,” Napier said. “In the second half, I had to be more aggressive and stay in control of things. Fortunately, I got good shots and I made the shots.”
The Huskies, who shot 54.2 percent from the field, didn’t get to New Jersey until around midnight, but Napier said the trip wasn’t bad.
“Things happen for a reason,” the junior said. “It took us a little while to get to New Jersey and to the hotel. But we had so much fun on the bus. Even though we were stuck a few times, we took the time, and since we were having fun we didn’t realize how long we were on the bus. We just had fun.”
The Huskies got sloppy in the final eight minutes of the first half and blew a 13-point lead.
Seton Hall led by one at the half and pushed the margin to 43-36 early in the second half as Cosby and Edwin hit 3-pointers to ignite an 8-0 spurt.
Reserve R.J. Evans came off the bench and scored four points and Tyler Olander scored off an assist from Napier to cut the deficit to 43-42.
After Seton Hall pushed the lead back to 46-42, Napier, who didn’t make his first basket until late in the first half, took over. He scored six in the nine-point run with Niels Giffey adding a three-point play.
Seton Hall stayed within striking distance the rest of the way, but Boatright put the game out of reach with a long 3-pointer and a dunk off a fast-break setup by Napier, who had a steal with about four minutes to play.
“After they took the lead in the second half, we came out with more energy and intensity,” Boatright said. “That’s what we have to do. We turned the ball over and over and over in the first half and they turned them into points. We then had to spring right back and play with some effort.”
Playing with Brandon Mobley and Brian Oliver sidelined, Seton Hall didn’t seem to have the talent to stay with the Huskies early. Connecticut used an early 11-0 run that featured a four-point play by Boatwright in taking a 13-5 lead, and it upped the margin to 25-12 with a 7-0 run that included four points by DeAndre Daniels.
Seton Hall suddenly picked up its defense and got 10 straight points from Edwin in a 16-0 run that gave the Pirates a 28-25 lead.
Connecticut got within a point three times in the half but didn’t regain the lead until Napier scored in the lane on the first possession of the second half.
“We don’t feel sorry for ourselves,” Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said. “We’re disappointed we lost, but it’s a matter of us figuring out how to win more or less than losing. Every time we do good things, like in Pittsburgh we played good defense and struggled on offense. Tonight we had two turnovers and missed free throws. We are playing hard but not capitalizing on opportunities that we are giving ourselves.”
Edwin and Cosby scored 44 of the Pirates’ points, while Kevin Johnson added nine off the bench.
“We continue to kick ourselves, said Edwin, who was 7 of 19 from the field. “We make too many turnovers (16) and we weren’t getting any stops. That’s the ball game right there. We didn’t get a chance to get up and down at all. We have to try to play through this and be a little wiser with the ball. We have to be more aware of what’s going on.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.