Maine-UConn Preview

The Associated Press

Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie already knows he has something special in Shabazz Napier.

Now he's hoping the rest of the nation takes notice.

Playing for the first time since Napier's buzzer-beater, the 12th-ranked Huskies go for their 54th consecutive home win against a non-conference opponent Friday night when they take on Maine in Hartford.

That streak would have ended Monday if not for Napier's clutch performance, which led UConn (8-0) to a 65-64 victory over No. 15 Florida.

Following a season-low four-point effort in a 76-66 win over Loyola Maryland, Napier finished with 26 points and hit 9 of 15 from the field - including a four-point play with 33 seconds left and the game-winning jumper as time expired.

''Growing up I wanted to be Superman. Everyone wants to be a hero,'' said Napier, who made 5 of 8 from 3-point range. "I just felt I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time.''

The senior guard has put up at least 20 points in three of his last four games after averaging 13.5 over his first four. He's been particularly good in big games, finishing with a season-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting in a 59-58 win over Indiana in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 22.

Napier scored the go-ahead bucket in that contest and was named tournament MVP after totaling 47 points in the final two rounds. He's averaging 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists - the only player in the country to average at least 16-7-5.

"Whenever we need a big shot, he makes that," Ollie said after the win over the Gators. "Whenever we need a play to be made, he made that ... he's got so much heart. Hopefully, America is starting to look at him as that man."

With Napier leading the way, the Huskies are off to their best start since opening the 2010-11 season 10-0. They've won by an average of 12.0 points during this streak while posting a 44.9 3-point percentage that ranks among the top 10 in the nation.

UConn's DeAndre Daniels has also been on a roll, averaging 17.8 points in his past five games.

The Huskies have won by an average of 18.7 points during their 53-game home winning streak against non-conference foes. UConn's run dates to a 77-73 loss to Indiana on Jan. 20, 2007.

The Black Bears (1-6) aren't likely to end that streak having dropped 82 of 98 all-time meetings, including 11 in a row since a 79-73 win in Storrs in 1978.

Zarko Valjarevic had 19 points and Xavier Pollard added 18 on Wednesday, but Maine's skid hit five with a 81-72 loss at NJIT.

Dimitry Akanda-Coronel, averaging a team-high 16.1 points, scored nine on 4-of-16 shooting. The sophomore swingman has totaled 15 points while missing 20 of 26 shots over his last two games.

Maine will try to tighten things up defensively after allowing 92.0 points per game on 48.9 percent shooting during their skid.

The Black Bears have played UConn tight for a half in each of their last two meetings - both in Hartford.

The teams were tied at the break on Dec. 22, 2009, before the Huskies pulled away to win 71-54. Maine trailed by five at the half on Nov. 17, 2011, before UConn went on a 23-2 run and won by 20.