It must certainly rank as one of the most memorable games two Connecticut teams have ever played against one another – even if it was 2,000 miles away.
In the balmy Virgin Islands, Quinnipiac moved much closer to reaching its goal of building a national name and came agonizingly close to ending UConn's 26-year run of dominance against in-state opponents. The Bobcats clobbered the Huskies on the boards and forced UConn's top players — its guards — to take one ill-advised shot after another.
But, ultimately, UConn's current trend prevailed; Shabazz Napier again went from zero to hero in a flash, and the Huskies rallied from 10 points down to tie Quinnipiac and finally win 89-83 in double ovetime in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam.
UConn (4-0), ranked 23rd, will play New Mexico for the championship Monday night at 10 p.m. Quinnipiac (2-2) will play George Mason in the third-place game.
Down 10 points, 55-45, with 4 minutes, 57 seconds to go, the Huskies rallied as Napier, who who had missed 16 of his first 18 shots, finally got hot, scoring 11 points over the final 3:36, including a coast-to-coast dive and lay-in to tie the game with 4.2 seconds left.
Napier, who missed 16 of his first 18 shots from the floor, finished with a career-high 29 points.
In the first overtime, Napier, again driving, got to the line and made two free throws to put the Huskies ahead. UConn had not led by three during all of regulation, but opened a five-point lead in OT when DeAndre Daniels hit two free throws. Still, even as their best player, Ike Azotam, fouled out, the Bobcats kept the pressure on. Garvey Young hit a three-pointer with 13 seconds left, and after Napier made two free throws, Dave Johnson hit another three with 4.4 seconds left to tie it at 77, and force another OT.
Napier started the second OT with a three-pointer, and the Huskies edged ahead again, opening a six-point lead when Omar Calhoun hit two free throws. Again, Quinnipiac rallied, and only when, following a turnover, Napier hit two at the line to make it 89-89 with 20 seconds left was the game safely in UConn's hands.
Ryan Boatright scored 18 and Omar Calhoun 16 as nearly all UConn's offense came from th e back court. Quinnipiac (2-2) got 16 from Dave Johnson and 15 from Young.
UConn has not lost to an in-state opponent since a one-point loss to Hartford in December 1986.
Quinnipiac came out with bruising intensity and pounded the Huskies on the boards, getting a 17-5 rebounding edge in the early going. Coupled with the Huskies' cold shooting, the Bobcats were able to take a five-point lead, 16-11, as the first half ground on.
In a physical game, perhaps the most physical for UConn yet this season, and an emotional game, the Huskies found Enosch Wolf and Daniels in foul trouble early.
But Quinnipiac also struggled from the floor, starting 6-for-21, and the game remained close. Ike Azotam, the Bobcats' top player, drew his second foul with 3:34 left in the half.
Phil Nolan, who has played little and looked shaky, came off the bench late in the first half and, like Wolf against Wake Forest, began making a breakthrough. He scored six points during a stretch, helping put UConn back on top 23-22 with 2:58 to go, and was UConn's leading scorer and rebounder (five) in the first half.
Niels Giffey drew a foul on UConn's last shot of the half and made both free throws to tie the game at 26 at the break. The teams shot a combined 16-for-55 over the first half. Napier and Boatright were a combined 1-for-16 for the Huskies.
The second half started with the same intensity, but UConn came out shooting a little better, Napier hitting his first jumper and Calhoun hitting a deep three to put the Huskies ahead, 33-30.
Calhoun, heating up, hit another three to reach 10 points and put UConn ahead, 37-34. But the Bobcats continued to pound. Daniels blocked a shot, though, to send the Huskies on the fast break, and R.J. Evans converted to put UConn ahead 41-38 with 10:35 to go. Over the first 30 minutes, neither team had been able to open more than a five-point lead.
Ousmane Drame hit two free throws to put Quinnipiac ahead, but Tyler Olander made a strong move to the basket and dunked to put the Huskies back ahead, 43-42 with 8:24 left. Evan Conti's three gave Quinnpiac the lead again, but Boatright got to the line and tied it.
Conti hit another three after a series of blocks at both ends to put Quinnipiac ahead by seven, 52-45, with 6:20 left. Clearly, the Huskies were in trouble, the program's long dominance over in-state rivals in jeopardy.Copyright © 2015, RedEye