Napier Won't Always Be The Huskies' Savior

  • Pin It

HARTFORD — There is only one Jesus. His name is Shuttlesworth.

And for $109.95, you too, can purchase his jersey on Jan. 14.

For the rest of us who began thinking that maybe Shabazz Napier was the real miracle worker, who could do no wrong with the game on the line, who could hit every impossible shot in the closing seconds, who could do what's never been done …

Well, news flash. He's human.

As part of a NBA nickname campaign, Ray Allen will wear his nickname on the back of his jersey on Jan. 21 when he returns to Boston with the Miami Heat. The former UConn star and greatest three-point shooter in history, of course, played the character Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee's 1998 movie, "He Got Game."

Napier has shown he has plenty of game, essentially hitting winning shots in a half-dozen games the past two seasons. And when he beat Florida at the buzzer earlier this month, man, folks were starting to get downright religious.

Well, Napier didn't miss his last five shots Wednesday night in the heart-aching 53-51 loss to Stanford at the XL Center. He missed his last six. It was ugly. It was downright human.

UConn scored 13 stinking points in the second half. Good grief. The Huskies shot 16.1 percent in the final 20 minutes [5-for-31]. They missed all 12 threes they took.

Shabazz was not in the zone.

Stanford was.

"A terrible shooting display," Napier said. "We didn't get it done in the second half. It came down to the wire and I wasn't able to knock down the shot. None of us were able to. I'm upset the way I played in the second half, the way I ran my team.

"I really thought it was going to be a good win for us, and I didn't come through. All I can do is be mad at myself, learn from it. Just understand what I can do better and move along."

UConn, which came off exam break ranked No. 10 in the nation at 9-0, wasn't going to win every game this season.

And Napier wasn't going to win every big game in the closing seconds.

It only began to seem that way.

The Huskies forged a 10-point lead at halftime. They can't blame the long layoff for this loss. They can blame the Stanford zone. Stanford is big. Stanford is long. Starting two seniors and three juniors, Stanford is smart, poised and experienced.

Slowly, surely, the Cardinal began to suffocate the life from the UConn offense on this night. Coach Johnny Dawkins credited his defense. UConn coach Kevin Ollie thought many of the wounds were self-inflicted.

Dawkins said his team tried to keep UConn guessing with some different defensive looks. Ollie called it a "simple zone," that Stanford did a good job closing up gaps and creases.

"We never got the ball in the four hole, which we call the middle at the free throw line," Ollie said. "We never exposed that."

Yet after Stanford went on a 14-0 run to take a one-point lead with 10:46 left, Napier surely looked as if he was going to put an end to the nonsense. He had a jumper. He set up DeAndre Daniels for a layup in transition. He scored on a layup. He had a steal. UConn found itself up 47-46 with 8:33 left and you figured Napier would think of something special.

  • Pin It

Local & National Video