Napier leads UConn men past Eastern Washington
Bridgeport — Shabazz Napier had 15 points and nine assists Saturday to lead No. 15 UConn to an 82-65 win over Eastern Washington in a Huskies home game played 80 miles from campus.
Napier led a balanced attack in which five UConn players reached double figures. Ryan Boatright had 14 points and Niels Giffey, making his first start this season, added 13 for the Huskies (11-1).
Tyler Harvey scored 19 points to lead Eastern Washington (5-6), which trailed by just six points midway through the second half. Ognjen Miljkovic added 15 points and Drew Brandon 13 for the Eagles, who took 28 shots from 3-point range and made nine.
UConn came in shooting just under 44 percent from 3-point range, but made just 3 of 10 shots from behind the arc. Eastern Washington was 3 of 13 in the first half. The Huskies had shot 46.5 percent on 3s over their first nine games, but are now just 13 of 44 in their last three.
UConn made up the difference at the foul line, hitting 25 of 27 free-throw attempts. Eastern Washington made took just seven foul shots, making six.
The Huskies led 30-23 at halftime, and took their first double-digit lead at 38-27 early in the second half on a dunk by DeAndre Daniels.
But a 3-pointer by Harvey cut the Eagles’ deficit to 48-42 midway through the second half, forcing UConn coach Kevin Ollie to use a timeout.
Napier responded with a three-point play, and UConn stretched the lead to 58-45 after five straight points from Phil Nolan.
Nolan finished with 11 points and Omar Calhoun had 12.
The game, played during UConn’s winter break, gave the fan base and donors in wealthy Fairfield County a chance to see the team in person. It was the first “home” game played outside of Storrs or Hartford since the Huskies lost to Syracuse, 88-71, on Jan. 3, 1987, in New Haven.
Ollie and Boatright both celebrated birthdays on Friday. Ollie is 21 and his coach just turned 41. Ollie’s wife, Stephanie, is from Bridgeport and had 16 members of her family at the game.
Eastern Washington, which was coming off a 92-70 loss at Seton Hall, has now dropped five of its last six to fall under .500 heading into conference play. The Eagles, in the middle of a four-game road trip, open the Big Sky schedule Jan. 2 at Weber State.
The Eagles were playing a ranked team for the first time since November 2011. They fell to 1-19 against the Top 25, including 15 consecutive losses.
They led this one early.
Harvey hit a 3-pointer to give them an 11-8 lead, and a layup by Drew Brandon with just over 6 minutes left put them in front 21-20.
The Huskies closed the first half on a 10-2 run, holding Eastern Washington scoreless for the final 4:21. Giffey had a 3-pointer and a layup in a 15-second span to give UConn a 30-23 lead with just under 3 minutes remaining, and neither team scored the rest of the period.
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