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UConn Wins Over Rutgers 69-63 On Senior Night

Sparks Fly Between Napier And Boatright As UConn Ugly's Its Way To A Victory In Its Final Home Game Of The Year

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UConn sent it's senior class out with a win against Rutgers Wednesday night in what began and finished as an utterly uninspired performance.

The final score was 69-63 as the Huskies recorded their 24th win of the season and set up their rematch against Louisville on the road this weekend.

The offense was really just two people: Shabazz Napier and Niels Giffey. The two seniors hit 11 of the team's 12 threes and semed to trade off making baskets at certain points in the game. Napier finished his final home game with 27 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebounds, while Giffey added 16 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds. Besides that, no one else made any kind of impact whatsoever, with only DeAndre Daniels (7 points) even sniffing double figures.

UConn put the game away with about 7 minutes to go in the second half when the Huskies took what had been a close game and opened up an 11 point lead. UConn did it primarily with their defense, going on an 8-0 run that saw two Phil Nolan dunks on great passes from Ryan Boatright and Lasan Kromah. Rutgers, conversely, scored their 53rd point with a little over 1 minutes to go in the game and didn't score again until just over 5 minutes left. It was one of the only times in the game where UConn seemed to be clicking on all cylinders.

The first half was an odd affair where UConn only had 13 points at the 9 minute mark and was once again playing sloppy offense with a lot of missed jump shots and poorly-executed plays. Luckily Rutgers wasn't much better, leading UConn with 9 minutes left in the half by only 2 points, 15-13. After that, though, both teams began knocking down jumpers. I haven't watched Rutgers play much this year at all, but I'll venture a guess they hit as many jumpers in this game as they have all season long. Part of it was that the Scarlet Knights were just putting them in the basket ... good for them. Part of it was that UConn's defense wasn't anything to write home about, giving Rutgers shooters a lot of room to do their business.

The second half looked to be shaping up the same way until UConn clamped down defensively for about 6 minutes and really stymied any momentum Rutgers had left. Unfortunately, as has so often been the case this year, UConn did enough wrong, played poorly enough to where Rutgers continued to make runs. What was an 11 point lead with 5 minutes to go ended up being a tiny four point lead with just under a minute to go. Over the last 5 minutes of the game, UConn scored just five points.

The frustration seemed to boil over at 66-57 when Ryan Boatright came down the court and took a contested three pointer with plenty of time on the shot clock. It was a stupid, stupid shot, especially considering how poorly Boatright has played of late and how badly he's shot the ball from the field almost the entire year.

Almost immediately afterward, Napier committed a foul on Myles Mack, one of Rutgers best free throw shooters, all but giving the Scarlet Knights two points for no reason. Evidently, while cameras didn't show it, Napier and Boatright got into a heated exchange on the sideline, with Napier evidently chewing out Boatright about the three point attempt. The arguement seemed to carry over onto the court. Both Napier and Boatright looked like they were in a haze, and Kevin Ollie even removed Boatright from the floor with about three minutes to go as, obviously, the two had no interest in playing together.

Luckily, the Huskies were able to do enough to win - getting a few steals from Napier and a big, big block from Daniels who, aside from that one play, continued his Off-Broadway role as the Invisible Man in this game.

All-in-all, it was a game where UConn looked to be more interested in their opponent this weekend than the one on the floor against them Wednesday. A lot of the same problems continued to pop up-bad shot selection, lack of consistent offense from anyone other than Napier, bad rebounding-but at this point no one should be surprised. They've won 24 games despite those problems and they'll have to find a way to win more in March doing exactly the same thing. Expecting a different team to show up for tournament play is probably a bit foolish at this point.

I also don't know how worried anyone should be about the Napier/Boatright tiff. Honestly, it has seemed like those two guys have been on different wave lengths all year and it's not the first time UConn's to guards have looked less than thrilled with one another. I might be reading too much into it, but I'm also a believer that, whatever the circumstances, Ollie will figure out a way to handle it.

The bottom line is, UConn won it's last home game of the year, even if it looked ugly doing it, and now prepare for a huge matchup against Louisville. They'll have to bring their A-game. Hopefully they have a few more of those left in this season.