Bouncing back: Napier, Boatright shoulder the load

Ryan Boatright looks to bounce back from a poor game against Cincinnati on Thursday at the XL Center in Hartford.

Ryan Boatright looks to bounce back from a poor game against Cincinnati on Thursday at the XL Center in Hartford.

John F. Silver

STORRS, Conn.  – The number shave echoed through practice all week for the UConn men’s basketball team.

Villanova forced 19 turnovers and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds.

It’s hard to win when teams have those numbers but UConn guard Shabazz Napier has another take on the problem that plagued the Huskies in a 69-61 loss to Villanova on Saturday — his and running mate Ryan Boatright’s play.

So much has been written and talked about the Huskies’ rebounding issues it would lead many to think that it’s a new problem.

Napier burst that bubble on Wednesday. The difference between UConn winning and losing against Villanova wasn’t the rebounding. It was the play of he and Boatright.

Napier had two points on 3 of 8 shooting while Boatright had four points – all in the final minute — with one assist and five turnovers.

“It had something to do with me and Boatright not scoring the ball well,” Napier said Wednesday. “When you lose games, your weaknesses during the game are seen as a bigger thing. If we would have won that game (the media) would not have been talking about turnovers and rebounds. Coach (Kevin Ollie) wouldn’t have been talking about turnovers and rebounds. It was because me and Boat didn’t play so well offensively that rebounding and turnovers became a big deal.”

Boatright/AP Photo

Boatright/AP Photo

The Huskies (17-7, 7-5 Big East) will host Cincinnati on Thursday at the XL Center and it’s a safe bet the message about taking care of the ball and boxing out was heard by the Huskies. What the Huskies need more than that against a talented Cincinnati team is for Napier and Boatright to have their normal games. Napier leads the Huskies with a 16.3 points per game while Boatright checks in at 15.5 a game.

It’s a good bet, regardless of the rebounding numbers, that if Napier and Boatright combine for six points again the Huskies are going to lose.

While the talk will be about whether UConn can rebound and take care of the ball, the true test will be whether Napier and Boatright can bounce back.

Boatright is coming off a nightmarish game against Villanova that may have been the worst of his basketball career. He couldn’t do anything right on the floor and was in the midst of an out of body experience air-balling wide open 3-pointers and making bad decision after bad decision.

“I wasn’t Ryan Boatright that game,” Boatright said. ” I just had a bad game. It happens to everyone. It’s basketball.”

Boatright sat down with head coach Kevin Ollie to breakdown his play against Saturday. He already watched it prior to sitting down with the head coach. He knew what was coming.

“I have to be myself and play basketball, that wasn’t me,” Boatright continued. “I knew what I did. I am the biggest critic of myself. I knew what lays he was going to point out…I aint going to play like that again.”
Ollie is relying on Boatight and Napier to provide that scoring and playmaking with a motley crew of a roster. the first year coach is demanding a lot of of each player and he wants them to learn to fight through those bad games and find a way to get out of the rut.
“You have to play better defense, try and find your shots and make your teammates better,” Ollie said. “You saw the game, you know the stat line, 1 assist and 5 turnovers is not good. I don’t care if you shot is not going in, you want to have to get other people involved.

“That’s very hard for a young player and an old player. You have to get out of your own way sometimes. You have to communicate with yourself…you have to tell yourself in those adverse situations that you are a good play and things are going to change in my favor.”
Napier and Boatright are two two players that make the Huskies go. UConn relies so much on the duo it is hard for the team to function when they aren’t playing well.
On Thursday, it isn’t all about rebounding and taking care of the ball. Napier and boatright plan on taking matters into their own hands.
“That’s not going to happen (again),” Napier said. “One of us is going to score one day. It’s going to help us get rebounds because everyone will be excited about it. Our biggest problems against Villanova is that we weren’t scoring.”

 Wolf (non) update

Junior center Enosch Wolf remains suspended from the team pending a resolution of his court case for an arrest on Feb. 11 after an alleged domestic dispute with his girl where he was charged with burglary and disorderly conduct.  Ollie said he “had no idea” if Wolf will play again this season.