Big East Breakdown — Napier Steps Up For UConn; Five Storylines; Weekly Honors; Power Rankings

Shabazz Napier and his UConn teammates won’t play in the Big East Tournament next month at Madison Square Garden.

And they won’t play in the NCAA or NIT Tournaments, either.

The Huskies are banned from postseason play due to poor APR scores, yet that hasn’t stopped Napier from playing at a high level and competing with the Big East’s best.

After leading UConn to a pair of overtime victories last week, the junior guard was named Big East Player of the Week on Monday.

It is the second time this season that Napier has earned the league honor. He was also named Player of the Week on Nov. 19 after leading the Huskies to a 4-0 start to the season. In addition, Napier has been named to the Big East weekly Honor Roll on three separate occasions.

Last Thursday, Napier scored 8 points in overtime, including a three-pointer, to spark UConn to an 82-79 win at Providence. For the game, Napier scored 18 points and handed out 3 assists as he shot 4-of-5 from the floor and a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range.

Sunday against South Florida, Napier started the overtime session with three straight 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the extra period to lead the Huskies to 69-64 victory at Gampel Pavilion. For the game, he played 43 minutes and scored 24 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, handed out 4 assists, and had 3 steals.

“He just makes remarkable shots,” Huskies coach Kevin Ollie said. “He’s just got that belief in himself, that it’s a certainty, that he’s going to have confidence  that it goes in.  He’s committed to that shot and he’s going to knock it down.  If he misses, he shakes it off.  It’s a wonderful thing if you have that confidence as a basketball player, to step up in big moments.”

For the two games combined, Napier shot 11-of-19 overall and 8-of-13 from 3-point range.

For the season, Napier is leading the 15-5 Huskies in scoring at 17.2 points per game and is the top 3-point shooter at 40.2 percent. He is also the team’s second-leading rebounder at 4.4 per game.

“I just feel like [my teammates] give me the chance to take the shots,” Napier said. “I’m willing to do it make or miss. They keep giving me confidence.”

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FIVE STORYLINES 

1. After starting the Big East season at 1-3, Pittsburgh is among the league’s hottest teams, having won five of six to improve to 6-4 in league play. The Panthers handed then-No. 6 Syracuse their second straight loss on Saturday, 65-55, behind 13 points, four assists and three steals from former St. Anthony star Tray Woodall.

“It was real important,” Woodall said. “We know we came off a loss in Louisville where we felt we were the better team.”

The Panthers host struggling Seton Hall (13-9, 2-7) — losers of three straight — tonight.

2. Syracuse hopes to get back on the winning track tonight at home against Notre Dame after dropping back-to-back games to Villanova and Pittsburgh. The Orange continue to play without injured frosh DaJuan Coleman and senior forward James Southerland, suspended indefinitely. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported that Southerland’s appeal will be heard this week by a Syracuse University panel. The Queens native was averaging 13.6 points per game, second on the team behind Brandon Triche’s 14.5 scoring average.

3. There is a real logjam near the top of the league, with nine teams above .500 entering Monday. Syracuse and Marquette are tied at 6-2, followed by four schools at 6-3, Cincinnati, Louisville, Notre Dame and Georgetown.  UConn is 5-3 and Pitt and St. John’s are 6-4. Not much has changed at the bottom of the league, where USF and DePaul are a combined 2-15.

4. There is an interesting race for the league’s scoring leader going on. Providence’s Bryce Cotton leads the league at 21.5 points per game, followed by St. John’s D’Angelo Harrison at 19.7 and then Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick and Louisville’s Russ Smith at 18.4.

5. Cincinnati scored a big recruiting victory Sunday when 6-foot-10 Jermaine Lawrence of Pope John XXIII chose the Bearcats over St. John’s and UNLV. Rutgers added JUCO guard Craig Brown on Monday.

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WEEKLY HONORS

Big East Player of the Week

SHABAZZ NAPIER, Connecticut, G, Jr.

Napier led the Huskies to a pair of overtime wins, averaging 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game and shooting 57.9 percent from the field (11-of-19) and 61.5 percent from 3-point range (8-of-13). He scored 18 points, including eight in overtime, in an 82-79 win at Providence and had 24 points, including 11 in OT, in a 69-64 win against USF. Napier leads Connecticut, and is fifth in the BIG EAST, in scoring with an average of 17.2 points per game.

 

Big East Rookie of the Week

CAMERON BIEDSCHEID, Notre Dame, F, Fr.

Biedscheid averaged 12.5 points, shot 50.0 percent from the field (8-of-16) and 54.5 percent from 3-point range (6-of-11) to help the Irish to wins against Villanova and DePaul. He came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points in a 65-60 win against the Wildcats and had seven points in a 79-71 overtime win against the Blue Demons.

 

BIG EAST Honor Roll

SEAN KILPATRICK, Cincinnati, G, Jr.

Averaged 20.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals in a 2-0 week.

 

RUSS SMITH, Louisville, G, Jr.

Averaged 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in a 2-0 week.

 

VANDER BLUE, Marquette, G, Jr.

Averaged a league-leading 23.5 points and shot 58.3 percent from the field in a 1-1 week.

 

JACK COOLEY, Notre Dame, F, Sr.

Averaged 21.5 points and 16.0 rebounds in a 2-0 week. Turned in his 13th and 14th double-doubles of the year.

 

BRYCE COTTON, Providence, G, Jr.

Averaged 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in a 1-1 week. Hit game-winning 3-pointer in win at Villanova.

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POWER RANKINGS

1. Syracuse (18-3, 6-2)

2. Louisville (18-4, 6-3)

3. Cincinnati (18-4, 6-3)

4. Marquette (15-4, 6-2)

5. Notre Dame (18-4, 6-3)

6. Pittsburgh (18-5, 6-4)

7. Georgetown (16-4, 6-3)

8. UConn (15-5, 5-3)

9. St. John’s (14-8, 6-4)

10. Villanova (13-9, 4-5)

11. Rutgers (12-8, 3-6)

12. Providence (11-11, 3-7)

13. Seton Hall (13-9, 2-7)

14. DePaul (10-11, 1-7)

15. USF (10-11, 1-8)

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PREVIOUS BIG EAST BREAKDOWNS

Week 1: Click here

Week 2: Click here

Week 3: Click here

Week 4: Click here

(Photo, Release: UConn Athletics)

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