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Kevin Duffy: UConn needs the 3s

Updated 12:32 am, Monday, November 26, 2012
  • Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, left, drives past Stony Brook's Carson Puriefoy during the first half of Connecticut's 73-62 victory in an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, in Storrs, Conn. Nappier scored a game-high 19 in the victory. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham) Photo: Fred Beckham, Associated Press / FR153656 AP

    Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, left, drives past Stony Brook's Carson Puriefoy during the first half of Connecticut's 73-62 victory in an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, in Storrs, Conn. Nappier scored a game-high 19 in the victory. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)

    Photo: Fred Beckham, Associated Press

 

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STORRS -- An odd scheduling reconfiguration gave Stony Brook a weekend doubleheader -- Saturday versus Canisius; Sunday at UConn -- and, as a result, limited time to prep for the nation's 21st ranked team.

The Seawolves (yes, that's their nickname) took the ferry from Long Island to Bridgeport, bused up to Storrs and at some point, watched film for 20 minutes.

"Normally, we'd get four hours," said Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell.

Twenty minutes, in regards to UConn, is a funny number. It all depends which 20 minutes you watch. Look at it like this: Shabazz Napier has scored 12 points in the first 20 minutes of his last five games. He's scored 88 in the second.

Let's assume Pikiell and the Seawolves skipped through the first half of film, because Stony Brook had the blueprint Sunday: Make someone other than Napier and Ryan Boatright beat you.

Problem was, on this lethargic afternoon, the rest of the gang did. UConn drilled eight 3-pointers in 13 possessions over a nine-minute stretch, a stat that we probably won't see again this year.

But rest assured, that Stony Brook defense -- sagging in the lane to help off penetration from Napier and Boatright, hedging early on every screen -- is something the Huskies must get used to.

It's not rocket science. It's not even general earth science. Watch five minutes of tape, glance at any of UConn's first five box scores, and the defense for the Huskies is brutally obvious. Boatright and Napier have alone accounted for 48.3 percent of UConn's scoring. Both are future pros, whether it's in the NBA or overseas. The other guys are, well, unproven (at best). So if Stony Brook was going down, it wasn't at the hands of another Napier one-man highlight.

"I mean, Shabazz and Ryan are our two best scorers," said junior forward Niels Giffey, the beneficiary of several open looks in the 73-62 win.

During the 24-point barrage, Giffey, who scored a career-high 15, hit one 3-pointer on a kick-out from Olander. Then Omar Calhoun, shooting just 29 percent from deep, nailed two from the left wing, the first on an assist from Napier and then a helper from Boatright, who set up half of the Huskies' 10 long-range daggers.

"Every team plays help defense," Calhoun said. "We just made shots today so you could notice it better."

Sometimes it's difficult to draw anything from these early season games. They usually follow a similar script: The little guy hangs tight for the first half, but eventually succumbs to the physically imposing, more talented high-major. In order for a mid-major (such as Stony Brook) to pull off the upset, the 3-point line usually serves as the equalizer.

And that's what makes Sunday's game so interesting. The 3-point arc was indeed the equalizer, but for the big bad Huskies, not for tiny Stony Brook.

"Hopefully, we can have the 3-point line be something that can break games open," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said.

Yes, Ollie better hope so, because six games in, after being outrebounded by Michigan State, Vermont, Wake Forest, Quinnipiac, New Mexico and now Stony Brook, it's hard to imagine this team competing on the interior with the Syracuses and Louisvilles of the world.

We've known it since Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith transferred, and these six games have only confirmed the notion that this frontcourt -- a power forward, Tyler Olander, at center and a small forward, DeAndre Daniels, at the high post -- is going to get beat up in the Big East. It's inevitable.

After six games, we've also confirmed this: Boatright, all 5-foot-10 of him, is electric on the dribble-drive. He can hang in the air, absorb contact and finish at the rim. Napier, not as athletic but a few inches taller, can single-handedly deliver an 8-0 run on command, it seems.

"We wanted to do a great job on those two guys," Pikiell said.

For the most part, Stony Brook did. Boatright (nine points and seven assists on 3-of-8 shooting) was turned into a distributor. Napier was swarmed in the halfcourt, too, the Seawolves hedging and then helping if he happened to split the defense (which he did a few times). He only attempted seven field goals, and most of his scoring came in transition.

As Ollie explained, there is no transition without rebounds.

And rebounds, especially against the Big Boys (sorry, Stony Brook), won't be easy to come by. The answer: The supporting cast -- Calhoun, Giffey, Daniels and even Olander -- should save the film from this game. That 3-point line could come in handy when the top dogs of America's top league come to town.

"We got the open looks," Giffey said, "but I don't think we needed 3s to win today."

Not yet, at least.

kduffy@newstimes.com; @KevinRDuffy