Shabazz could only bail them out so many times.
No. 10 UConn had picked up their four biggest wins by a total of five points, relying on the heroics of their star guard to carry them to the wins. But it wasn’t enough on Wednesday night. With Stanford erasing a double-digit second half deficit and taking a 53-51 in the final minute, Napier missed a challenged, pull-up jumper. After Stanford missed the front end of a one-and-one, Napier gave the ball up to Omar Calhoun who missed a deep three at the buzzer.
And with that, the Huskies had their first loss of the year.
We tried to warn you. This UConn team, as much fun as they are to watch and as good as Napier has been this season, is just not a top ten basketball team. There isn’t enough support for Napier on this roster. UConn entered the night shooting 46.5% from three. They were 0-for-13 in the second half. Napier missed five threes from beyond the arc in the final ten minutes. UConn finished with 13 points in the half, making just five field goals.
The story of this game isn’t UConn, however.
Johnny Dawkins has talent. The Cardinal, through the first month and a half of the season, have been a disappointment. This is a group that was considered a sleeper in the Pac-12 entering the season, but for a myriad of reasons — injuries, weird lineups, inconsistent play from stars — Stanford was unable to live up to those expectations.
They lost at home to BYU in a game where the Cougars shredded their defense. They got worked over by Pitt at the Barclays Center. Their best win heading into Wednesday? Northwestern? Houston?
That’s what’s so important about this win. UConn may not be a top ten, but they’re a tournament team. And Stanford now owns a win on their home court.
It gets better. The Cardinal take on the struggling Michigan Wolverines at the Barclays Center. Win that game, and Stanford will not only head into Pac-12 peaking, but they’ll have a non-conference resume strong enough to give them some leeway when it comes to an at-large bid.
That’s big news for Dawkins as well.
It’s not a secret that his seat has been heating up in recent seasons. Despite the talent on the Stanford roster, they’ve been disappointing during his tenure. A step closer to a tournament appearance is a step closer to job security.