Lost in all the talk of the fabulous freshman this season in college basketball, UConn senior Shabazz Napier has made an early push to be recognized as one of the best guards in the nation.
Napier certainly looked the part his last time out and he'll try to duplicate that performance Thursday night when No. 19 UConn hosts Detroit at Gampel Pavilion.
Napier recorded his second triple-double in the Huskies' 80-62 victory over Yale on Monday. He finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to become the first player in school history with two career triple-doubles.
"I was rebounding and doing what I had to do and guys were making shots, making it easy for me," Napier said. "I feel fortunate to be in the company of those guys (who had the other triple-doubles) and I just want to keep moving forward."
Nine different Huskies (2-0) scored in the victory over the Bulldogs, including four players in double figures. The point guard said following the win that it is that type of balance that will be the reason UConn is a tough team to prepare for this season.
"Our depth is so crazy, I don't need to score," Napier said. "I told the team, 'You know guys, we don't need someone to score 20-plus every game.' It's going to be all-around scoring and it should be that way."
Much of UConn's offense early on has come from its terrific 3-point shooting. The Huskies are shooting 21 of 40 (53 percent) from long distance, which ranks in the top 10 nationally. With the three-guard lineup of Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun on the floor for much of the game, the team realizes its greatest strength is on the perimeter.
"We have great shooters at every position, so that will benefit us in the long run," Calhoun said. "Winning makes everyone look good."
The guard-heavy offense does have it's detriments, however, with the main one being rebounding. Against Yale, the Huskies were beaten on the glass by a 43-31 margin. In 2012-13, UConn finished last in the Big East in rebounds with 993, and had a negative rebounding differential on the year.
UConn has never lost an opener in Gampel Pavilion since the building opened in 1990, winning all 24 contests. The Huskies are 72-4 all-time against non-conference foes in their on-campus facility.
Detroit bounced back from a season-opening loss to South Alabama with a 106-51 rout of Michigan-Dearborn on Monday. Junior forward Juwan Howard, Jr. led the Titans (1-1) with 22 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Anton Wilson chipped in 21 points.
"It's going to be a war," Titans coach Ray McCallum said of the matchup against the Huskies. "We're going to play against one of the best teams and one of the best back courts in the nation. So we are going to find out a lot about ourselves. It's going to take a tremendous focus and commitment to go and get a win."
"(UConn is) bigger and more athletic, so we have to play a smart basketball game."
Detroit has lost 21 straight against ranked opponents since beating Butler on Jan. 10, 2002.
The Titans won the only meeting against UConn 67-61 in the 2001 postseason NIT.
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