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Huskies hold off Crimson, 61-56

Shabazz Napier led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds to secure a win in UConn's final non-conference game of the season.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Thankfully, as they say, a win's a win.

No matter how slow, offensively-challenged or at times frustrating—a win will always be a win.

Last night, UConn (12-3, 0-2) overcame a five-point halftime deficit and some tremendously sluggish offense to top Harvard 61-56 inside Gampel Pavilion. Shabazz Napier scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half, as the Huskies cashed in on eight of 14 three-point attempts over the entire game. Ryan Boatright pitched in 14 points and a team-leading eight free throw attempts. DeAndre Daniels recorded 11 points to go with eight rebounds.

The victory snapped UConn's two-game losing streak, one suffered on its most recent road trip that featured bad defeats at Houston and SMU.

The similarly unranked Crimson played without leading scoring Wesley Saunders, who sat out due to a knee injury. However, sophomore guard Siyani Chambers stepped in admirably, scoring a game-high 21. Fellow guard Laurent Rivard dropped 13, and the pair accounted for all but one of Harvard's nine three-pointers on the night.

Neither team could find much of an offensive rhythm in the early going, when the Huskies held a 10-4 lead with 13 minutes remaining in the opening half. The Crimson had put together just a single dunk and pair of free throws over that span, before reeling off a 22-10 run that was largely fueled by its potent backcourt. Meanwhile, UConn simultaneously went scoreless for the ensuing six minutes until Lasan Kromah put in a lay-up at the 6:55 mark.

Kromah had a hand in the next two Husky baskets to tie the game at 16 points apiece and finished with a team-high seven first half points. Then, four turnovers plagued UConn's efforts to gain a grasp on the game and allowed Harvard to keep its leading distance. Long-range baskets by Kromah and Daniels cut two six-point Crimson leads in half and concluded the Huskies' scoring efforts for the opening twenty minutes. Chambers enjoyed the last laugh on a jumper that fell through with two seconds remaining and set the halftime scoreboard at 31-26 visitors.

The talented second-year guard did not slow down from there, knocking down a pair of shots from behind the three-point line in the first five minutes following intermission. However, Napier and Boatirght picked up their squad by either scoring or assisting in the next 13 UConn points to take a two-point lead with 14:36 to go, a lead they would never relinquish.

As a team, the Huskies registered 22 free throw attempts in the second half, compared to just three over the first twenty minutes of play. They also out-rebounded their Ivy League visitors 26-22 over that time, while pinning the Crimson to 26.7 percent shooting. In fact, outside of Chambers and Rivard, UConn held Harvard scorers to just seven total points in the second half.

While largely in control post-halftime, including an eight-point lead with 90 seconds to go, UConn still faced some dicey moments down the stretch. Following a Chambers lay-up, Giffey turned the ball over with only nine ticks left to give the Crimson a chance to tie the game. Yet, as the clock wound down, Brandyn Curry returned the favor and handed possession back over to the Huskies, who subsequently watched Daniels seal the win with a pair of free throws.

UConn will next take on UCF at home this Saturday beginning at 6 p.m. in Storrs. The game can be seen on ESPNU.