Shabazz Napier, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick

Shabazz Napier, UConn’s closer

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UConn is currently on a three-game winning streak, which has improved their record to 5-3 in the Big East and has kept them within striking distance of first place in the conference.

The Huskies are just a game back of Marquette and Syracuse, which is quite an impressive achievement for a team that has to play Enosch Wolf for extended minutes in the middle after the departure of Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith this offseason.

The reason for the Huskies’ success is usually attributed to their back court of Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier, but there’s more to the story than that.

It’s not a secret that UConn doesn’t have anything to play for this season beyond a regular season title. They aren’t going to the Big East tournament. They aren’t going to the NCAA tournament. They are playing for pride, and they’re doing it well. UConn has been involved in four overtime games this season. One of those games went to double-overtime. They are 3-1 in those games, with the one loss involving a blown call by a referee.

This past week, UConn was taken to overtime by both Providence and South Florida. Shabazz Napier had 19 points in the extra sessions of those two games, building on a trend that has been developing this season. From UConn beat writer Kevin Duffy:

In 24:40 of overtime this year, Napier has 34 points on a remarkable 18-of-20 shooting from the free throw line. That’s a 40-minute average of 55.2 points per game. Wow.


Napier has averaged 6.75 points in the first half this season. In the second and overtime, he’s scoring 10.45. His totals: 130 points on 45-for-96 shooting from the floor in the first half; 213 points on 59-for-137 shooting for the rest of the game. It’s a reflection of Napier becoming more aggressive in crunch time.

It’s a shame that UConn is irrelevant nationally this season, because Napier — and Boatright, for that matter — is having a terrific year.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Utah lands top-75 center Jayce Johnson

Larry Krystkowiak
AP Photo
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Utah picked up its center of the future on Monday as four-star center Jayce Johnson pledged to the Runnin’ Utes, a source confirmed to The 7-foot Johnson recently cut his list to Cal, Colorado and Utah with the possibility of reclassifying to the Class of 2015.

Regarded as the No. 67 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, Johnson will look to attend Utah in December as a walk-on who will redshirt. While Johnson likely won’t play this season, he does give head coach Larry Krystkowiak another big man to use in practice to go against sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. A solid long-term prospect, Johnson has a good frame to add weight and he’s also skilled finishing with both hands. Utah now has its replacement for Poeltl if he opts to leave for the NBA after the season and he gets an extra semester to work with the program.

Johnson is coming off of his official visit to Utah this weekend as he joins junior college guard Jojo Zamora in the Class of 2016.


PHOTO: South Carolina gets new uniforms

Frank Martin
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South Carolina debuted some new uniforms early this week as the school is going with a fresh look and three color ways.

They’re also going to with the “Carolina” branding this season, but I think these new uniforms look pretty cool.