UConn news: Napier, Top 25 ranking, Paradise Jam

UConn shoots for its second U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam championship tonight in St. Thomas. The Huskies won the tournament in 2008.

New Mexico(3-0) is tonight's championship game opponent.

Game time is 10 p.m.

The Huskies (4-0) climbed two spots to No. 21 in today's Associated Press top 25 poll.

Junior Shabazz Napier earned Big East player of the week honors after averaging 19.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in three games.

Here's a preview of tonight's championship game against New Mexico:

-- Both teams needed to stage remarkable comebacks to win in the semifinals.

UConn fought back from a 10-point deficit (55-45) with 4:57 left and finally out-lasted Quinnipiac, 89-83, Sunday in double overtime.

Napier, who struggled for most of the game, scored a career-high 29 points, including 11 in the final in the last three and a half minutes of regulation. He sent the game to overtime with a driving layup with 4.2 seconds left.

New Mexico trailed by five with 12 seconds remaining against George Mason before Kendall Williams hit a 3-pointer and the stole the inbounds pass, leading to Tony Snell's game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left. The Lobos won 70-69.

-- This is only the second meeting between these two programs. During its post-season run on the way to winning the program's first national championship in 1999, UConn won, 78-56, in an NCAA second round game in Denver, Colo., on March 13.

-- New Mexico coach Steve Alford's name should sound familiar. Alford was the captain of Indiana's 1987 national championship team. He's in his sixth season as head coach.

As head coach at Iowa, he led his team to a 70-68 upset of top-ranked UConn in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Nov. 11, 1999, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

-- The Lobos returned three starters from a 28-7 team that won the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament titles and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Snell, a 6-foot-7 guard, leads the Lobos in scoring at 19.7 points per game. Williams, a 6-4 guard, and 7-foot sophomore center Alex Kirk also average in double figures, checking in at 18.0 and 10.3 points, respectively.

Kirk is the top rebounder at 8.3 per game.

New Mexico beat University of Illinois-Chicago, 66-59, Friday in the Paradise Jam first round.

-- The Lobos are shooting just 41.7 percent from the field through three games. They've out-rebounded opponents, 38-31.7. But they lost the battle of the boards for the first time this season against George Mason.

They've been out-rebounded only six times in the last two seasons.

-- The Huskies continue to win despite losing the rebounding battle in each of the first four games. They've been out-rebounded by an average of 39.5-30.8.

-- Napier has led the team in scoring in all four games. He is averaging a team-best 20.8 points, scoring the bulk of his points in the second half.

After going 1-for-10 in the first half against Quinnipiac, he went 7-for-13 from the field.

-- As expected, the Huskies have been a perimeter-powered team this season. The starting guard trio of Napier, sophomore Ryan Boatright (18 points) and freshman Omar Calhoun (17) combined for 64 points. Reserve guard R.J. Evans chipped in six points.

-- UConn made a school record 39 free throws out of 45 attempts versus Quinnipiac. The Huskies are shooting 82.1 percent from the free throw line.

Reader Comments


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