Napier leads Connecticut to victory over Indiana

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NEW YORK --- Guard Shabazz Napier weaved through traffic, created havoc with his dribble and hit one big shot after another.

The way Napier was playing resembled the high level of play that 18th -ranked Connecticut used to get from Kemba Walker during its last national championship run in 2011.

Napier certainly had a game the Huskies were accustomed to getting from Walker as he scored 16 of his season-high 27 points in the second half in a 59-58 victory over Indiana Friday night in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic Benefitting Wounded Warrior Project at Madison Square Garden.

Napier came within two points of his career high while shooting an efficient 10-of-14. His final basket was a layup through traffic with 94 seconds remaining that provided the final margin and it came on a night where he committed a team-high seven turnovers and missed four free throws.

"That's my big brother," Napier said. "I try to emulate everything he does in a sense but I also try and put my type of talent and skills on it. I am not trying to be him; those are some hard shoes to fill. At the same time, I'm not trying to be him. I'm just trying to be Shabazz and if I can continue to play the way I have, minus the free throws and turnovers, I think I should be good."

"He just relishes the moment," Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie said. "Some people run away from the moment. He embraces it. It's just a special quality to have as a young man but a special quality to have on the basketball court."

And embracing the moment means being aggressive even if it takes some nudging from teammates.

"Sometimes my teammates let me know, not verbally but the way they carry themselves that I have to be more aggressive," Napier said.

After Napier's most aggressive basket of the night, Connecticut had to survive a wild sequence to secure its third victory by five points or less. All have been in NEW YORK and Napier has scored 65 points in those games, though this was his best of the three and it earned him MVP honors of the event.

"He's just too good," Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. "I'd imagine it would be in the NFL like trying to deal with a great running back like Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson now, something like that where a guy can change direction at the drop of a hat, play with both hands, both feet.

"He's explosive to the basket. He's got the pull-up obviously. He's got the straight pull-up, the step-back, he's got the three. He's got one of those unteachable abilities to make big shots at pretty crucial times."

Even with Napier's big go-ahead shot, he almost cost the Huskies a chance at the win by getting called for a charging foul on guard Yogi Ferrell with 21 seconds left. That came after Napier missed a 3-pointer with 38 seconds following consecutive turnovers by Indiana's Devin Davis.

"It was a bone-headed play," Napier said. "I should have passed it but I don't think it was a charge."

Following a timeout by Indiana (5-1), Ferrell drove around forward Deandre Daniels but his running jumper with eight seconds remaining went off the top of the basket. After three timeouts, Indiana retained possession with seven-tenths of a second remaining and Ferrell missed an off-balance jumper from the left side.

"I was just kind of looking for a high ball screen, get some movement first, then a high ball screen, pretty much to create," Ferrell said. "The shot felt good but it just didn't go in."

While Napier tied a career high for field goals, nobody else reached double figures for the Huskies, who shot 39.6 percent and committed 17 turnovers. Guard Ryan Boatright added nine points but was 2-for-9.

Ferrell led Indiana with 19 points but was 6-for-19 from the field. He missed his first five shots of the second half before hitting three straight shots, including a 3-point play that gave Indiana a 56-55 lead with 3:07 remaining.

Indiana held a 58-57 lead with 1:53 remaining on an Evan Gordon jumper but did not score again.

The Huskies held Indiana nearly eight minutes without a basket during a 12-4 run that gave them an 18-12 lead with 6:49 remaining on a layup by Daniels. On the next possession, Indiana ended a stretch of six straight missed shots and seven turnovers when forward Devin Davis converted a layup.

Indiana tied it at 24-24 on a running layup by Ferrell with 70 seconds remaining but Napier hit a 3-pointer from just inside the NBA line with 45 seconds remaining and added another from the top of the key with three seconds remaining for a 30-24 edge at halftime.

NOTES: In the first 2 1/2 minutes, the teams combined for four fouls and missed five shots before F Will Sheehey hit a layup. ... Napier was called for a palming violation but avoided getting a technical foul following a demonstrative display. ... Former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun was given a standing ovation when he appeared on the court during a first-half timeout. … Indiana freshman Fs Troy Williams and Noah Vonleh had rough games combining for two points and eight rebounds. Vonleh had double-doubles in four of his first five games but was held scoreless as he was limited to 10 minutes due to foul trouble.

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