With the game on the line, UConn was not to be out-muscled, and certainly not to be out-fought. Memphis' Shaq Goodwin was going in for a possible game-winning dunk, and the Huskies' DeAndre Daniels, giving away a good 40 pounds, got in his way and blocked it. In the ensuing scramble, after all was sorted out, the Huskies got the ball. There was more work to do, but the sequence typified the desperate nature of this college basketball game and UConn's determination to wrest it away — a relentless, clawing, snarling, kind of game this was. "We stayed in the middle of the ring," coach Kevin Ollie said, "we're going to keep fighting. We didn't knock 'em out till the end of the game, but we kept throwing — body blow, body blow, body blow." And the Huskies came out on top, taking control in overtime to beat Memphis, 86-81, before 16,294 in just about the best basketball the American Athletic Conference has to offer. Shabazz Napier scored 34 points, his career high, and Ryan Boatright had 21 in UConn's second win over the Tigers this season. "We need a win for it to be [a rivalry]," said Memphis coach Josh Pastner, "but it was a high-level basketball game. Two high-level teams." Memphis outrebounded UConn 38-28, outshot UConn 54.8 percent to 39.3 percent. The Tigers dominated the paint, scoring 42, and had 20 points off fast breaks, seemingly getting one easy basket after another. "The stat sheet is ugly," Ollie said," but I'll take a win any day." The Huskies kept attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, taking 36 shots to Memphis' nine. ("That wasn't the reason we lost," Pastner said.) UConn offset the rebounding by creating 18 Tigers turnovers, while committing just six. And, of course, they made the big plays down the stretch. "There were a couple of times I was telling myself I have to step it up," said Napier, who scored 19 points in the second half, and six more in OT. "To be the player I want to be, you have to step up in these moments." The Huskies were trailing 69-66 when Napier missed a three-point shot. Phil Nolan got the most important rebound of the game, and fed the ball back out to Boatright, who passed up a three-pointer and passed on to Napier, who attacked the basket. "We didn't run the play we were trying to run and I had to make something out of nothing," Napier said. He found a crack of daylight and got it into the basket as Geron Johnson fouled him. Napier completed the three-point play to tie the game with 52 seconds left. "It's always the second shot that beats you," Pastner said. "They got the extra shot and they got the three-point play." At the other end, Joe Jackson's pass to Goodwin looked like another easy basket, but Daniels got the Huskies first block of the game. "That was a great play," Boatright said, "it turned the momentum to our side." Tempers flared during the scramble for the ball; Napier thought one of the Memphis players was kicking one of his. But things were sorted out and UConn got the ball. Nolan set a screen for Napier, but his 20-footer rattled in and out at the buzzer. "That was one of those shots I call a toilet flush," Napier said. "It didn't go in, it just clogged up and came out."
Huskies Win Grueling Battle In OT
Hartford Courant | Feb 16