JOE D’S NOTEBOOK January 18, 2014

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Shabazz Napier vs. Temple, Jan. 21, 2014. (Bob Stowell/UConn)

Shabazz Napier vs. Temple, Jan. 21, 2014. (Bob Stowell/UConn)

joe d'ambrosio Joe D'Ambrosio
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SATURDAY 1-18- Game day with the Cardinals is here. UConn and Louisville for the last time (for now) as conference rivals at what I can guarantee will be an ramped up Gampel Pavilion.Any game with the defending national champs is Storrs would be high on the intensity chain but with the ESPN Prime Time broadcast team and the Game Day crew in the house, yeah, it’s not just another game.

The Huskies played their best 20 minutes of basketball in the season in the second half of Thursday night in Memphis. Outrebounding the Tigers 20-8 after intermission, hitting 9 of their last 11 shots, winning 50-50 balls, UConn definitely answered the challenge in a very, very difficult place to play. My friend Neill Ostrout from the Journal Inquirer predicted on the pre game show that DeAndre Daniels would have a big game. Neill was spot on. DeAndre scored the Huskies first five points of the game, and 8 of their first 10 in the second half.He hit a career high four 3 point field goals and used his quickness to get the ball to the rim. Plus, a career high 11 rebounds. Kevin Ollie likes to use the phrase “ball hunters” in terms of rebounding. Daniels was the top “ball hunter” on that night.

Once again, when the game came down to the short strokes, Shabazz Napier delivered. He hit the go ahead for good bucket at 64-62 and then hit a baseline drive to make it 66-63. His knack for making the big play can’t be questioned. Lasan Kromah continued to play like the seasoned veteran that he is. And Omar Calhoun snapped out of his slump to provide seven big points.

No time to rest of their laurels for UConn with Rick Pitino bringing the defending national champion Cardinals to Gampel tonight. The ‘Ville drained 15 three point field goals in crushing Houston on Thursday. Russ Smith is one of the best guards in the country, Wayne Blackshear had a career scoring game against the Cougars and Luke Hancock has stepped into the starting lineup and played as well as he did when he was coming off the bench. The Cards will try to press you and force you into mistakes. Handling the Louisville pressure and the ability to get layups in press break situations will be critical tonight. UConn has to play off the emotion of the crowd, and not try to do too much.

It should be a fun night in Storrs and if UConn can compliment its win at Memphis with a win tonight, the Huskies will have put themselves right back in the conference race.

If you can’t be there tonight, our coverage starts at 8:30. Enjoy

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