Recap: Connecticut vs. Florida
Storrs, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - Shabazz Napier scored 26 points and hit the game-winning basket at the buzzer, keeping Connecticut unbeaten with a thrilling 65-64 victory over Florida in a battle between top-15 teams at Gampel Pavilion.
After Michael Frazier put the Gators up by one with a layup with 18 seconds left, the Huskies set up for the final shot following a Florida timeout. Napier threw up an off-balance shot from near the foul line that badly missed its mark, but DeAndre Daniels tapped the ball back to the senior guard and his second attempt was right on target as time expired.
"I missed [the first shot] terribly and I was glad DeAndre ran to the board," said Napier. "DeAndre put a hand on the ball and it bounced up higher and I was able to be in the right spot at the right time. I shot the ball and I knew it was going in."
Daniels added 14 points and seven rebounds for No. 12 Connecticut (8-0), which hung around with the more physical Gators by virtue of an 11- for-24 success rate from 3-point range.
Casey Prather paced 15th-ranked Florida (6-2) with 19 points and seven rebounds. Patric Young finished with 17 points in the loss, while Scottie Wilbekin had 15 before rolling his right ankle with 3:01 remaining.
Napier's buzzer-beater provided the climax to an exciting final three minutes that saw four lead changes. He also knocked down a clutch 3-pointer -- his fifth of the night -- while being fouled with 33.5 seconds showing, then sank the subsequent free throw after shaking off an injury to his left foot to stake UConn to a 63-62 edge.
Frazier then cut to the basket and scored off a feed from Prather to send Florida back in front and set up Napier's heroics.
Earlier, Napier was the driving force behind a momentum-shifting 10-0 run that brought the Huskies back from a 48-41 deficit. The UConn floor leader put up five points and came up with two steals during the surge, with his triple near the midway mark of the second half snapping a 48-48 deadlock.
"Shabazz was phenomenal," Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie remarked. "Whenever we need a big shot, he makes that. Whenever we need a play to be made, he made that. Hopefully, America is starting to look at him as that man. He's got so much heart. I love the kid to death. One of the big time players to ever put this jersey on and walk on the court at Gampel."
Wilbekin was forced to the locker room with the Gators down by two, but Young took over with Florida's primary ball-handler off the court. The senior center delivered three big buckets down the stretch, drawing a foul on the last and hitting the bonus attempt for a 62-59 Florida lead with 1:18 to go.
"I give our guys a lot of credit. We battled and fought," said Gators head coach Billy Donovan. "We took a lead, their kids really battled back and took the lead. And then we got down. We got up there in the second half, they came back and took the lead. We battled back and took the lead."
After trading baskets with the Huskies for the opening nine minutes, Florida put forth the game's first run to gain the upper hand. Prather dropped in six points during a 13-2 spurt he capped with a short jumper, putting the Gators on top by a 24-16 score with under six minutes to go in the half.
Connecticut responded by ripping off 11 consecutive points, nine of which came from beyond the arc, and grabbed a 27-24 edge on a Ryan Boatwright three with 3:05 left in the period.
The lead grew to 30-25 after Daniels knocked down a trey shortly afterward, though Florida pulled within a point at the break on back-to-back baskets by Young and Wilbekin in the final minute.
Florida then began the second half with a 7-2 flurry to go up 36-32, and the margin later reached seven points after field goals by Wilbekin and Prather made the score 48-41 with 12 1/2 minutes left.Game Notes
Napier finished 5-of-8 on 3-point tries ... Florida finished with a 34-26
rebounding advantage, the first time in six games this season it has lost when
winning the battle on the glass ... The Gators have now dropped their last
five road non-conference games against ranked foes, including a 59-53 decision
at No. 8 Wisconsin on Nov. 12 ... Prather was named the SEC's Co-Player of the
Week on Monday after averaging 23.0 points in a pair of Florida wins ... These
storied programs had met just once previously, a 69-60 Gators' win in the
Sweet 16 of the 1994 NCAA Tournament.