Down three to No. 10 seed St. Joseph’s with 50 seconds to go, the Hawks expected No. 7 seed UConn to go to Napier, the American Athletic Conference player of the year, and they were right. What happened next was something they could not have expected.
Napier took a pass beyond the three-point line, faked a dribble handoff to Boatright, and drove through the lane toward the rim. His shot was contested by lanky 6-foot-6 freshman DeAndre Bembry, but the miss was corralled by UConn’s 7-foot freshman Amida Brimah under the basket.
With St. Joe’s standout senior Halil Kanacevic tightly defending him, Brimah took one dribble to his right and deftly put up a hook shot. The shot fell and Kanacevic hit Brimah on the arm for a foul.
Brimah, just a 57 percent free throw shooter, then calmly stepped to the line and sank the foul shot to tie the game and ultimately force overtime.
Kanacevic, the versatile point forward who scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists, fouled out early in the extra frame and the undermanned and exhausted Hawks did not have a chance after that. Napier then put the Huskies on his back, scoring nine of his 24 in the extra frame to help his team pull out a 89-81 win.
Brimah, the Ghana native, had averaged just 4.3 points per game coming into the ballgame, and had just four points before his gutsy three-point play. Brimah added two more clutch free throws in overtime to finish the game with nine points and six rebounds in 30 minutes off the bench.
St. Joe’s led the game most of the way, but Phil Martelli’s team – who only go seven-deep -- looked gassed down the stretch. Each starter notched double figures for St Joe’s, but each starter also played more than 40 minutes with Bembry and senior guard Langston Galloway each playing the full 45 minutes. Galloway led all scorers with 25 points. Fellow senior Ronald Roberts added a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards, while Bembry and Chris Wilson added 16 and 13, respectively.
For the Huskies, Daniels and Boatright scored 18 and 17, while Niels Giffey added 10. They’ll face the winner of Thursday night’s Villanova-Milwaukee game.
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