John F. Silver
This season, more than any other, the Huskies are savoring their trip to New York and any kind of appearance in a national telecast.
The Huskies are under an NCAA tournament ban this year and because of that there will be no Big East tournament appearance at MSG. It will mark the first time in UConn’s history that it won’t be participating in the Big East tournament (it always qualified in year’s the conference cut off the tournament numbers).
So with that, and a future date with St. John’s in Big East play, the Huskies’ lone MSG appearance and the national spotlight with it against No. 25 N.C. State will be savored.
Many of the Huskies, including Shabazz Napier, cut their teeth at freshmen in the Garden as he helped the Huskies win the 5 games in 5 days on their way to March glory in 2011. It wasn’t that long ago, and Napier relishes the atmosphere.
“It feels like the Apollo. The atmosphere just feels so crazy,” Napier told the Journal Inquirer and other reports on Sunday. “The lights are on you. Everything else is so dim and dark. You can’t see the fans but you can hear their voices.”
The Huskies are savoring every big moment and big game. UConn rose to the occasion in the season opener with a stunning win over Michigan State at Remstein Air Force Base in Germany. The Huskies are now 6-1 — with a loss to New Mexico in the final of the Paradise Jam — as their only defeat. Despite the record and a healthy number of votes in the Associated Press poll, the Huskies are looking for some consistency and to raise their levl of play tonight.
UConn is coming off a wins over New Hampshire and Stony Brook that were both lackluster and disturbing. The Huskies trailed at the half to Stony Brook three days after Thanksgiving before edging a 73-62 win and had to hold off New Hampshire 61-53 in a poor performance last Thursday at the XL Center in Hartford.
The Huskies shot 36.8 percent from the game against New Hampshire and allowed 35 second half points. The key for the Huskies will be getting the inconsistent, yet talented, Napier going. Napier is leading the Huskies in scoring averaging 18.6 points per game but had only five points on 2 of 9 shooting against New Hampshire. Napier is capable on the big stage and began the season with a 25 point effort against Michigan State.
The Huskies also need a find a way to keep thing close on the boards. UConn out-rebounded New Hampshire 43-40 as it was the first time all year they won the rebound battle. The Huskies are going to need to redouble the effort against N.C State and their front-line of Richard Howell (14.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and C.J. Leslie (11.7 ppg, 7-5 rpg). UConn is -6.8 on the boards this season. Freshman forward T.J. Warren is the leading scorer for the Wolfpack averaging 15.8 points per game.
The Huskies could use a solid game out of Tyler Olander, a 6-8 forward who has been plagued by foul trouble in recent games. Olander has more fouls (20) than rebounds (18) in the last five games.
UConn Has A Chance To Showcase Season On Grandest Stage (Hartford Courant)
UConn Ready for Big Bout with NC State at MSG Tuesday Night (New Haven Register)