His teammates were missing three out of every four, so when Napier found open space a few feet behind the three-point arc, he launched them.
Napier missed one that would have won the game in regulation, then he made three in a row to start the overtime session, and the
"He's got that belief that he can make any shot," coach
Napier, the junior guard, scored 24 points, 11 of them coming in overtime as the Huskies overcame what was probably the worst first half a UConn team has played in a decade. They came from 12 points behind with a quick surge early in the second half and prevailed despite shooting just 29 percent from the floor. They were outrebounded 43-41 for the 15th time in 20 games.
"I've got a wonderful team," Ollie said. "They take you on some rides, but eventually they pull it together. It's just the heart they show. You knew it wasn't going to be perfect in the
UConn (15-5, 5-3 Big East) has won three in a row. South Florida is 10-11, 1-8 and last in the league. Last Thursday, UConn was outrebounded at
"We came out and we just played terrible," said Ryan Boatright, "the worst I've ever seen us play, as a team or as individuals."
In the locker room, Ollie talked simply, but emphatically, about effort and energy.
"We didn't bring any energy, any passion,"
Napier hit a jump shot from just inside the arc to ignite UConn in the second half, and they went on a 10-0 to get back in the game, the only stretch in which they played the kind of up-tempo game they prefer. When Boatright (17 points) hit a three-pointer to put the Huskies ahead 30-29, they had scored as many points in 3 minutes as they did in the entire first half.
"We just came out too sluggish," Napier said. "We didn't come out with attitude we should have, playing our first game in Gampel [since Jan. 8]. We had to do a better job, show fans we love their support."
Once UConn pulled even, it was back and forth over the next 17 minutes. Napier tied the game at 45 on a three-pointer with 4:03 left. But Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds, kept finding and hitting open threes to keep the Bulls in the game.
"If you tell me we're going to hold them to 29 percent shooting," Bulls coach Stan Heath said, "… and we're going to outrebound them, and I'm thinking, 'we're leaving here with a win.'"
Down the stretch, Napier hit two free throws with 40 seconds left to put UConn ahead, but USF point guard
"I've always demanded the ball at the end," Napier said. "I love those moments. I can't live with myself if I'm not the guy who takes the last shot. Then if I miss, I can't be upset with anybody but myself."
Napier, who was cited before the game with teammates R.J. Evans,
"We wanted to move the ball around quickly," Napier said, "It got kind of sloppy. Tyler made a great play getting to one ball. I felt like I could make the shot, so I took them.
Third time down, he made another to put UConn seven ahead and the Huskies made the necessary free throws to close it out. Napier finished 7-for-14 from the floor, his teammates 10-for-43.