By PAT EATON-ROBB
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut had lost two straight games, fallen out of the Top 25 and trailed by five points at halftime to a Harvard team that was on a nine-game winning streak.
But Shabazz Napier scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and UConn (12-3) came back Wednesday for a 61-56 victory over the Crimson.
“That was definitely a must win,” said Ryan Boatright, who added 14 points and teamed with DeAndre Daniels on a key defensive stop on Harvard’s final possession. “If we had lost three straight, that would have been terrible for us.”
Siyani Chambers had 21 points, including five 3-point baskets to lead Harvard (13-2), which lost for just the second time this season. Laurent Rivard added 13 points and Kyle Casey chipped in with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Harvard played the game without the team’s star player, Wesley Saunders. Saunders, who was averaging just under 16 points per game, had pregame issue with his left knee and is out indefinitely.
“Given the circumstances, I thought our guys were locked in,” said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. “I didn’t sense any letdown or being defeated or dejected based on that.”
The Huskies led early in the game, but Harvard used a 12-0 run to turn a 10-4 deficit into a 16-10 lead as the Crimson held UConn without a field goal for more than 6 minutes.
Chambers hit a jump shot from the foul line just before the halftime buzzer to send Harvard into the break with a 31-26 lead.
“When Wesley went down, we were just going to do it as a team,” Chambers said. “Somebody was going to step up.”
But UConn turned up its game after intermission. Consecutive 3-pointers from Boatright and Daniels gave UConn a 37-34 lead.
Chambers tied it again with a 3-pointer before UConn used an 11-2 run to take their largest lead of the game at 48-39.
But back came Harvard. Another Chambers 3-pointer cut the UConn lead to 49-47.
Napier took over from there. He hit a 3-pointer from the right corner and another from the left wing to give UConn a 55-47 lead with just 1:30 to play.
UConn seemed to have the game locked up before Rivard was fouled on a 3-point attempt and converted the four-point play to cut the lead to five points with just 35 seconds left. He then made a 3-point play with 16 seconds left to cut the UConn lead to three.
The Crimson got one final chance when Niels Giffey was called for traveling with 9 seconds left. But Boatright tipped a pass from Brandyn Curry and Daniels stole it, then sealed the game at the foul line.
“That last stop is what UConn basketball is all about,” said coach Kevin Ollie. “We gutted that one out and I’m proud of my guys. Our recovery is getting better.”
Daniels added 11 points and eight rebounds, and four of UConn’s nine blocked shots. Seven-foot center Amida Brimah had three others and altered several more, as UConn held Harvard to under 36 percent shooting from the field.
“We are the goal protectors,” Daniels said. “That’s what we do.”
It was an important win for the Huskies, who fell out of the Top 25 for the first time in 10 weeks after losing their last two games to Houston and SMU on the road. UConn had dropped three of six after starting the season with 11 consecutive wins.
The Huskies had 11 turnovers in the first 30 minutes, but just four in the second half.
Harvard is off to its best start since the 1945-46 season.
Their only other loss this season came at No. 15 Colorado.
The Crimson have just two winning streaks of 10 games or more in the history of the program. They won 10 straight in 1904-05, and 13 in a row in 1945-46.
UConn has now won 10 straight against Harvard, and 17 of the last 19 meetings with the Crimson. Harvard’s last win came in 1972.
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