Previewing UConn

Point guard Shabazz Napier and UConn are playing well to start the 2012 season. Here is a quick preview of tonight's opponent.


    G: 13 Shabazz Napier -- 18.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg
    G: 11 Ryan Boatright -- 13.7 ppg, 4.9 apg
    G: 21 Omar Calhoun -- 10.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg
    F: 02 DeAndre Daniels -- 8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg
    F: 10 Tyler Olander -- 5.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg

    NC State Head Coach Mark Gottfried On UConn

    "It's going to be a great opportunity for us again to play on a national stage in Madison Square Garden against a great program like UConn. So, I think our guys will be very excited about it."

    "Napier and Boatright at the guards are very talented and DeAndre Daniels is somebody that we looked at that we really liked. He's a very talented guy as well."

    "They seem to be a guard-oriented team that is really quick."

    "I think Kevin Ollie is trying to instill that in teams. They are really getting up in guys, getting after them. That will be maybe a little different than we've seen."

    "I think those guys are excited about Kevin coaching them. They want to play well and hard for him."

    "As you watch them, different guys are playing different minutes in some games... I think like a lot of us he's trying to figure out exactly how they should play and who should play, those type of things."

    "When we watch them, I think they are very talented... a very talented team."

    Shabazz Napier -- UConn's leading scorer, Napier is dynamic off the dribble and can score in a variety of ways. He is leading the team in 3-point shooting (38%) and is very good at getting to the free throw line.

    Ryan Boatright -- With Napier handling the scoring, Boatright is proving he can both score (13.7 ppg) and create for others (4.9 assists per game). A crafty player, Boatright runs the show for the Huskies.

    UConn Notables

    The University of Connecticut men's basketball team (6-1) makes its first-ever appearance in the Jimmy V Classic, challenging North Carolina State, the team most closely associated with late coach Jim Valvano, in Madison Square Garden. The game will be the second game of the Jimmy V Classic doubleheader, following Georgetown vs. Texas. Both games will be televised by ESPN.

    UConn, led by the guard tandem of junior Shabazz Napier (18.6 ppg) and sophomore Ryan Boatright (13.7 ppg, 4.9 apg), is coming off a 61-53 win over New Hampshire Thursday.

    North Carolina State (4-2), ranked No. 18 as of the Nov. 26 polls, suffered a 79-72 loss at Michigan on Nov. 27. The Wolfpack is led by freshman T.J. Warren (15.3 ppg) and senior Richard Howell (14.2 ppg).

    UConn is appearing in the Jimmy V Classic for the first time since the event's inception in 1995, the only team in the 2012 Classic making its debut.

    North Carolina State appeared in the 2002 Jimmy V Classic, bowing to Gonzaga, 69-60, in the event's final season at The Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. Georgetown played in the 2009 Classic, topping Butler, 72-65 at Madison Square Garden. Texas has been in two Jimmy V Classics, losing to Arizona, 91-83, in 2003 and defeating Villanova, 67-58, in 2008.

    The event was held at The Meadowlands for its first eight years, then moved to Madison Square Garden, where it will celebrate its 10th year with tonight's doubleheader.

    UConn has an overall record of 57-50 in games it has played at Madison Square Garden. Under Coach Jim Calhoun in the past 26 years, the Huskies' record at the Garden was 51-35 and they have won eight championships in the building --- the 1988 NIT Championship, as well as BIG EAST Tournament Championships in 1990, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, and 2011.

    Under Coach Calhoun, UConn was 8-8 in 16 regular-season games against St. John's, 35-19 in BIG EAST Tournament games, and 8-8 in other tournament play there. In UConn's last appearance at Madison Square Garden, they lost to Syracuse, 58-55, in the quarterfinals of the BIG EAST Tournament on March 8, 2012.

    Tonight, UConn will be playing its 236th game on ESPN/ESPN2 since 1986-87, the start of the Jim Calhoun era. The Huskies have a record of 147-88 (.626) in those games. UConn is 1-0 on ESPN this season, having topped Michigan State, 66-62, in its season opener. Tonight's game is one of 10 regular-season UConn games which be be televised on ESPN/ESPN2 and one of 14 regular-season UConn games on the ESPN family of networks this season.

    UConn was among "Others Receiving Votes" in both the the AP Top 25 poll and the ESPN/USA Today poll for the week of Nov. 26. The Huskies had been ranked No. 21 in the AP Poll and No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll last week. It was the second consecutive week the Huskies were in the AP poll.

    That was the first time the Huskies had appeared in the AP poll since Jan. 23, 2012, although they were included in "Others receiving votes" in the poll of Jan. 30, 2012. Until the poll of last Jan. 30, the Huskies had been ranked in the AP Top 25 for 28 straight weeks dating back to Nov. 29 of 2010. The 28-week streak was the fifth longest in UConn history.

    This may be Kevin Ollie's first season as the head coach of UConn, but that doesn't mean that the Huskies' coaching staff lacks head coaching experience.

    Between Associate Head Coach Glen Miller, Assistant Coach George Blaney, and Assistant Coach Karl Hobbs, the UConn staff boasts a combined 57 years of head coaching experience and a combined total of 860 victories. Plus, every member of Coach Ollie's staff --- also including Director of Basketball Administration Kevin Freeman and Assistant Director Ricky Moore --- owns a UConn National Championship ring.

    UConn junior Shabazz Napier was named the first BIG EAST Player of the Week of the season. Napier led the Huskies to four victories to open the season, averaging 20.8 points and 3.3 rebounds in wins over Michigan State, Vermont, Wake Forest, and Quinnipiac. It is the first such honor for Napier, who was named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Second Team.

    Napier has been outstanding in the second half of UConn's seven games so far this season. The junior guard from Roxbury, Mass., is averaging a robust 14.1 points in the second half of play, plus overtimes, in UConn's seven games. He is also shooting an impressive .500 from the floor (27-54), .440 from 3-point range (11-25), and a sizzling .919 from the foul line (34-37) in the second half. Overall, Napier leads the Huskies in scoring at 18.6 points per game.

    Coming down the home stretch in games, UConn has been very impressive at the foul line. In the last 10 minutes of games plus overtimes, the Huskies are 63 of 68 (.926) from the foul line. In the last five minutes of games plus overtimes, the Huskies are 54 of 57 (.947) from the line.

    UConn won its second consecutive game and sixth in seven games this year with a grind-it-out 61-53 win over New Hampshire. The Huskies outrebounded a team for the first time this season, 43-40, but the Huskies had their worst shooting night of the season at 36.8 percent.

    Still, they held New Hampshire to 30.6 percent and never lost the lead. Sophomore Ryan Boatright led the scoring with a season-high 19 points, while freshman Omar Calhoun added career-highs of 16 points and 8 rebounds. Junior DeAndre Daniels had 10 rebounds, UConn's first double-figure rebounder in a game this season.

    UConn held New Hampshire to a just 30.6 percent shooting in its 61-53 victory on Nov. 29, the sixth time in seven games this season in which the Huskies held their opponents under 40 percent. UConn held Michigan State to 37.5 percent shooting for the game, on its way to a 66-62 victory. Against Vermont, the Huskies were even more stingy, holding the Catamounts to 30.0 percent shooting.

    Quinnipiac was the third opponent in four games held under 40 percent shooting, hitting just 39.4 percent. Even in the loss to New Mexico, UConn held the Lobos to 39.6 percent from the floor. UConn held Stony Brook to 37.7 percent in the game before playing New Hampshire. For the season, UConn is holding opponents to 37.6 percent and 63.7 points per game. UConn held opponents to under 40 percent shooting in three of its final four games last year and 19 times during the season.

    After opening the season with four stright wins, the UConn basketball team suffered its first loss in the championship game of the Paradise Jam against New Mexico on Nov. 19 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Huskies bowed, 66-60, to take second place in the tourney. UConn erased a nine-point deficit with 7:00 remaining and took a 55-53 lead, only to allow a 9-0 run by the Lobos which sealed the result. Junior Shabazz Napier led the Huskies in scoring for the fifth straight game with 23 points, while sophomore Ryan Boatright had 13 and freshman Omar Calhoun contributed 10.

    In-state rivals UConn and Quinnipiac traveled nearly 2,000 miles to stage an epic battle in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam on Nov. 18, with the Huskies finally prevailing, 89-83, in double overtime. In a game that featured 19 lead changes and 16 ties, UConn rallied from a 10-point deficit with 4:57 remaining in regulation time to force the game into overtime, only to lose a 4-point lead with 19 seconds left in the first overtime.

    In the second extra session, junior Shabazz Napier opened the scoring with a three-pointer and the Huskies never lost the lead, securing the win from the foul line down the stretch.

    The Huskies tied a school record with 39 made free throws (39-of-45) and hit 23 of their last 24 from the line. Napier scored a career-high 29 points, 25 in the second half and overtimes. Meanwhile, sophomore Ryan Boatright added 18 points and freshman Omar Calhoun had 17. Quinnipiac had five players score double figures, led by Dave Johnson's 16.

    UConn athletics contributed to this report.

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