Shabazz Napier, Ge'Lawn Guyn

UConn knocks off No. 11 Cincinnati despite off-night from Shabazz Napier

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No. 11 Cincinnati is the kind of team that should, theoretically, give UConn problems.

They are good as anyone in the country defensively, and UConn is not a difficult team to develop a game-plan for. Slow down Shabazz Napier, makes life difficult for Ryan Boatright and Deandre Daniels, and win. The Bearcats attack the offensive glass as well as any team in the country, and UConn is not even in the top 250 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. Think about it like this: Napier had 11 rebounds for the Huskies on Saturday. No one else had more than four boards on a night the two teams combined to shoot 29.5% from the floor.

Cincinnati is bigger, more physical and older than UConn.

Yet it was the Huskies that left the XL Center on Sunday with a 51-45 win over the Bearcats despite Napier, Boatright and Daniels combined to shoot 9-for-30 from the field. That’s a great sign for the Huskies, who haven’t exactly been playing their best basketball of late. They struggled to win at Temple and USF and got worked over by SMU team at home, a team that plays an awful lot like the Bearcats.

The best news for UConn is that this win should help them climb above a seven-seed. Napier, who finished with 18 points and 11 boards, is talented enough that he can lead UConn to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, but I’m not sure this UConn team can beat elite teams when they’re at full strength on a neutral court.

The Huskies are a No. 7 seed in the latest bracket posted by our Dave Ommen.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)