By: TOM CANAVAN
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Shabazz Napier scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half and Connecticut posted a much-harder-than-expected 82-71 victory over Rutgers on Saturday night.
Ryan Boatright added 12 points and Amida Brimah had 10 points and eight rebounds as the Huskies (16-4, 4-3 American Athletic Conference) won for the fifth time in six games and handed Rutgers (8-12, 2-5) its third straight loss and fifth in six games.
Jerome Seagears and Kadeem Jack had 19 points apiece for Rutgers in what will probably be the final conference game between the long-time rivals. The Scarlet Knights will join the Big Ten Conference next season.
A big part of the Connecticut win was its defense on Scarlet Knights leading scorer Myles Mack (16.5 points) He scored a season-low six points on 2 of 9 shooting. He had scored in double figures in 11 straight games.
The other part of the win was Napier. The senior guard was 2 of 11 from the field five minutes into the second half. He suddenly regained the scoring touch that allowed him to tally 30 against Louisville and 27 against Temple in his last two outings and Rutgers could not slow him down.
The scoring came at the right time, too. Rutgers had used a run early in the second half to take one of its few leads of the game, and it was tied at 46 after Jack, who also had 11 rebounds, hit a jumper.
Boatright put the Huskies ahead with a layup and Napier, who finished 7 of 18 from the field and 10 of 11 from the free throw line, followed with a 3-pointer. He would score 14 of the next 19 points for Connecticut, including eight in a row that allowed it to build a 62-56 lead.
Rutgers, which shot 40 percent from the field, was within 67-61 after Jack hit two free throws with 6:25 to go, but the Huskies opened the lead and were never threatened again.