Men's basketball | Connecticut 63, Florida 53: Connecticut guard play frustrates Florida

By Associated Press  • 
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Shabazz Napier looked up toward the Connecticut fans in the crowd at AT&T Stadium and held up one finger.

The Huskies had just beaten overall No. 1 seed Florida 63-53 last night in the Final Four. But Napier’s gesture had another meaning.

“One more to go,” the first-team All-American said.

The victory got them into Monday night’s title game against Kentucky, and it was as good as any team had done this season against the Gators, who came in having won 30 straight games, a streak that started after a loss to the Huskies four months ago.

“We have been in a lot of dogfights,” Napier said. “We are just an experienced group. We believe in each other and continue to believe in each other. … We are going to win. That is what we do.”

Especially against Florida.

The Gators lost only three times this season — once to Wisconsin in the second game of the season and twice to the Huskies. The first time was on Dec. 2 when a foul-line jumper at the buzzer by Napier gave UConn a 65-64 victory.

The Huskies didn’t have to wait that long to know they had this one.

The Huskies, the seventh seed in the East Regional, had outstanding games on both ends of the court.

Napier helped seal the victory with about two minutes remaining when he made two free throws for a 59-47 lead. That 12-point margin was the deficit the Huskies (31-8) faced in the opening minutes after a cold-shooting start.

“I knew we was going to get back in the game. They knew we was going to get back in the game,” second-year coach Kevin Ollie said. “We live and die on defense, and hopefully everybody understands that.”

With Ollie in a defensive stance himself most of the game, the Huskies sidetracked the Florida offense by shutting down point guard Scottie Wilbekin and three-point specialist Michael Frazier II, who scored a combined seven points.

“UConn was very good with their pressure on our guards, and we didn’t convert points,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “They scored a lot on us, as well. So all the credit goes to them.”

The Huskies were impressive on offense, shooting 55.8 percent (24 of 43) from the field against a team that allowed opponents to shoot 39.9 percent this season.

“Whomever I put in the game, it was positive and they were productive,” Ollie said.

DeAndre Daniels had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut, and it was his pair of three-pointers in a span of 1:43 that helped ignite the Huskies after they had fallen behind 16-4.

“DeAndre was huge for us,” Ollie said. “He stepped up and really rebounded for us and was pretty much unstoppable.”

Napier, who leads the team in almost every category, finished with 12 points and six assists. He definitely got the better of Wilbekin in a matchup of senior point guards, both conference players of the year.

Napier had two key second-half steals on Wilbekin, both of which led to UConn baskets.

Wilbekin was bothered by cramps.

“It was right when the second half started. I was getting a little cramp, it wasn’t too bad,” Wilbekin said. “I got out of the game and got some ice, and it wasn’t really a problem from then on.”

The Connecticut guards were. Florida had 11 turnovers and a season-low three assists.

“That’s crazy, that’s not usually what we do,” Wilbekin said. “All credit goes to them and their guards and the way they were denying and putting pressure on us.”

Patric Young had 19 points for Florida (36-3).

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