ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Connecticut continued its 26-year dominance over in-state rivals on Sunday night -- barely.
Shabazz Napier scored 23 of his career-high 29 points in the final 3:24 of regulation and two overtime periods, and the 23rd-ranked Huskies survived a major upset bid by Quinnipiac in an 89-83 win at the Paradise Jam."It was a hard-fought victory," said first-year UConn coach Kevin Ollie. "My hats off to the guys in the locker room, they played hard. It was just a gut-check win for us."UConn (4-0) trailed by 10 after Garvey Young's 3-pointer 3-pointer with 4:56 left in regulation. But Ryan Boatright countered with a three-point play and Napier scored 11 of the Huskies' next 13 points, including a driving layup with 4.2 seconds left.Quinnipiac's Dave Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 4.4 seconds left in the first overtime, and Napier misfired on a long 3-point attempt to send the game into a second OT. There, Napier kicked things off with a 3 and the Huskies never again trailed."We just stuck together, kept our composure," said Napier, a junior guard. "I felt like the guys felt we still had a chance to win the game. Up to that point, we didn't play as well as we should have. We stepped up our game, and luckily we got some bounces our way and won the game."UConn has now won 67 straight games against in-state foes, dating back to a Dec. 29, 1986 loss to Hartford in former coach Jim Calhoun's first year at the helm. Quinnipiac (2-2), located 45 minutes from UConn, is coached by former Huskies assistant Tom Moore. The Huskies are now 16-0 against former Calhoun assistants.Boatright added 18 points and Omar Calhoun had 17 as the guard trio accounted for 64 UConn points.Johnson led five Bobcat players in double figures with 16 points and Young added 15."It's hard," said Moore. "My kids are a little devastated, because they feel they were close to beating a team that they have a lot of respect for. In tournaments like this, you don't get extra points for playing really well against a good team."UConn hit 39 of 45 free throws, matching the highest total of made free throws in a game in program history, including 23 of its final 24. The smaller Quinnipiac, which plays in the Northeast Conference, outrebounded the Huskies, 44-35."They're a physical team, I know Tommy Moore preaches that," Ollie said of the Bobcats. "At the end of the day, we got the victory, and I'm very, very excited for these kids."UConn advances to the tournament finals, where it will face New Mexico.