The Connecticut backcourt duo of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright combined for 34 points and nine assists as the unranked Huskies upset No. 17 Notre Dame Saturday in South Bend, Ind., 65-58.
Boatright and Napier have been the engine of the Connecticut offense all season and, despite a tough matchup with Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant for Notre Dame, they each scored in double figures and orchestrated an offense that turned the ball over just seven times. Atkins finished with 18 points and four assists.
The biggest key for Connecticut Saturday was to contain Notre Dame forward Jack Cooley, an early candidate for the conference’s Player of the Year award. It is difficult to completely shut Cooley down, but forward DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander combined to hold Cooley to 14 points and nine rebounds.
Olander scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Daniels had eight points and nine rebounds.
The larger story here, though, is the continued success that Connecticut has enjoyed under coach Kevin Ollie in his first season after taking over for longtime head coach Jim Calhoun.
That, combined with a mass exodus of players in the offseason and a postseason ban due to a low APR, and the Huskies were supposed to struggle. But struggle they have not.
Saturday they played with poise on the road against a Top 25 team, a team that was supposed to exploit a big weakness, a lack of depth on the interior. But the Huskies found ways to win by limiting turnovers and shooting 51 percent from the field in a tough environment.
Connecticut returns to the floor Monday against No. 3 Louisville.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.
The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.
Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.
With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.
“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”
Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.
While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.