STORRS, Conn. — Playing his final home game in a Connecticut uniform, senior guard Shabazz Napier gave the sellout crowd at Gampel Pavilion one final, special memory on Wednesday night.
Napier hit a career high seven 3-pointers and missed only five shots from the field on the way to a 26-point effort that led No. 19 UConn to a 69-63 victory over Rutgers.
Napier was 8-for-13 from the field and 7-for-11 from 3-point range. The seven 3s were just two short of Ray Allen’s UConn record of nine.
Senior guard Niels Giffey, with 16 points, was the only other player in double figures for UConn (24-6, 12-5 American Athletic Conference).
Guard Myles Mack led Rutgers (11-19, 5-12) with 16 points. Forward Wally Judge added 13 for the Scarlet Knights, who pulled within 67-63 in the final minute.
A blocked shot by UConn forward DeAndre Daniels and an offensive foul on Rutgers’ Kadeem Jack allowed the Huskies to hold on.
Daniels, who played only six minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul, scored UConn’s first basket after halftime and gave the Huskies a 36-33 lead. The three seniors — Napier, Giffey and forward Tyler Olander (four points) who played on UConn’s 2011 national championship team — then scored in succession to give the Huskies a 51-44 lead with 13:58 left.
The Huskies were still clinging to a 58-53 lead after Napier scored on a layup with 7:49 to play, but UConn’s defense opened the door to a bigger lead just one minute later.
Turnovers by the Scarlet Knights on two consecutive possessions led to baskets and 11-point lead for UConn. The Huskies’ perfectly executed a fastbreak after the first miscue and forward Phillip Nolan finished the play with a thundering dunk. After the next turnover, swingman Lasan Kromah made a nifty spin move in the lane and dished to Nolan for another dunk that put UConn on top 64-53.
Napier, who led all scorers in the first half with 14 points, hit two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining to give UConn a 34-31 lead at the break. Napier was 4-for-6 from the field — all from 3-point range.
The Huskies, who rank 23rd in the nation in 3-point field-goal percentage (38.9), shot 57.1 percent from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes, hitting 8 of 14. Giffey was 3-for-6 and had 11 points.
Rutgers kept it close by hitting 6 of 11 from 3-point range. Mack was 3-for-3 and led the Scarlet Knights with 11 points. UConn led by seven points after a 3 by Kromah with 15:50 left but Rutgers responded with an 8-0 run capped by forward J.J. Moore’s 3-pointers.
NOTES: It was Senior Night at Gampel Pavilion as UConn played its final home game of the season. Honored in ceremonies before the game were three players who helped the Huskies to the 2011 NCAA national championship: G Shabazz Napier, F Tyler Olander and G Niels Giffey. Also receiving framed jerseys from coach Kevin Ollie were swingman Lasan Kromah, a graduate student and transfer from George Washington, and G Tor Watts, a walk-on. … With Rutgers headed to the Big Ten next season, there was a chance Wednesday’s game was the last meeting between the teams in the near future. They could meet in the American Athletic Conference tournament in Memphis. UConn entered the game with a 36-14 lead in the series, which dates back to 1952. … Ollie and Rutgers coach Eddie Jordan are two of seven current college coaches who played in the NBA and have returned to their alma mater as head coaches.
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