By Joe D'Ambrosio

SUNDAY, JAN 26- What do the hammer and the nail. the Yankees and Red Sox , pre 2004, and UConn and Rutgers in men’s basketball have in common. All are rivalries that aren’t rivalries because one side dominated. Last night at the Rutgers Athletic Center, UConn made it 20 of its last 22 against the Scarlet Knights with an 82-71 win.

With 12 minutes to play, Shabazz Napier was 2 for 11 from the floor and struggling with his shot. In the final 12 minutes, the senior from Roxbury showed why he is the first half American Athletic Conference player of the year. He scored 17 points including eight in a row after Rutgers had cut the Huskies lead to 1 at 54-53. He hit three’s , he hit step back jumpers, he took the ball to the hole and drew contact, he took the game over when it was hanging in the balance. With DeAndre Daniels hampered by a high ankle sprain, Shabazz realized what his team needed to win. And he did it. Again. Napier has been nothing short of brilliant this season. For the first time in his career, he has scored at least 20 points in three straight games. It was a virtuoso preformance.

When Daniels went down with 4 minutes and had to be helped off the floor, both Wayne Norman and I thought the worst. No one was more surprised than us to see DeAndre check back into the game in the second half and gut out eight tough minutes. In some ways, it was an even more impressive performance that his 31 points on Tuesday night against Temple.

The early potion of the game belonged to Amida Brimah. He had 10 points, all in the firs half and showed a little jump hook that could become a huge weapon in his continual offensive improvement. If Brimah can become an inside scoring option, the Huskies can be even better. Ryan Boatright returned and was solid and the two old guys, Niels Giffey and Lasan Kromah continued to provide points, rebounds and more importantly stability.

UConn gets a chance to rest until Thursday when they play another 9 PM home game, this time against Houston. You can be sure the Huskies will have their New Years Eve loss to the Cougars at the top of their minds. Our pre game that night will be at 8:30.


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