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Napier leads UConn past Memphis in OT

Hartford, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - Shabazz Napier nearly ended Saturday's game in regulation, but the star guard and his Connecticut teammates did enough in overtime to get by Memphis 86-81 in a tight Top-25 showdown at XL Center.

The 24th-ranked Huskies (20-5, 8-4 AAC) forced 18 turnovers and outscored the No. 20 Tigers 29-6 at the free throw line to complete a sweep of the home-and- home series from their American Athletic Conference foe.

Napier, who had a 3-point try rim out at the regulation buzzer, finished with a career-high 34 points, while Ryan Boatright provided 21 in UConn's sixth victory in its last seven games.

Memphis (19-6, 8-4) shot 54.8 percent from the floor, owned a 38-28 rebounding advantage and had four players finish in double figures, but it wasn't enough to extend a three-game winning streak.

Joe Jackson led the way with 24 points and seven assists, while Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford added 15 and 12 points, respectively, in the setback. Johnson also grabbed eight boards but fouled out early in the extra session.

Napier not only showed his scoring ability but his playmaking skills as well, as his bounce pass on a backdoor cut from Boatright resulted in a go-ahead layup with just over a minute gone in overtime.

Boatright followed with a 3-pointer, and UConn was ahead 76-71 following a DeAndre Daniels free throw with under 2 1/2 minutes to play.

Memphis' Michael Dixon Jr. made it a two-point game with a make from the perimeter, but Napier answered with a triple of his own seconds later, and the Huskies held on the rest of the way.

"The stat sheet is not pretty, but I'll take a win any day," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. "We didn't knock Memphis out until the end of the game, but we kept throwing body blows, body blows, body blows. Finally in overtime we got that lead and we didn't relinquish it."

The first half saw both teams go on extended runs.

Memphis held a 14-8 lead just over five minutes in before the Huskies woke up and scored 15 consecutive points -- eight coming from Napier.

The Tigers countered with an 11-0 run, and it was a close 36-35 game in favor of UConn at the break.

Midway through the second half, Napier went on a personal 7-1 stretch, the last five points coming on a runner over two defenders and a 3-pointer to give UConn a 58-51 cushion.

"There were a couple of moments I was telling myself that I have to step it up. To be the player I want to be, you have to step up in these moments," Napier said.

A 3-pointer by Crawford and a Jackson layup kept Memphis close, and the Tigers finally got over the hump when Jackson sliced through the lane for a layup inside three minutes to go in regulation.

The next time down, Jackson again dribbled into the lane, only this time he fed David Pellom underneath the basket for an easy dunk and a 69-66 Memphis lead with 1:41 on the clock.

An offensive rebound extended UConn's ensuing possession, and Napier evened things on a three-point play with 51.9 seconds remaining.

UConn took over when Daniels blocked Shaq Goodwin underneath the basket and Memphis was whistled for a shot clock violation. Napier dribbled away the remaining 16.8 seconds and attempted a contested 3-pointer from the right wing that went halfway down, rolled around the rim twice and spun out, much to the chagrin of the home fans.

Game Notes

Napier's previous career high was 30 points in a loss to Louisville on Jan. 18 ... Boatright became the 48th member of UConn's 1000-point club ... UConn shot just 39.3 percent from the field ... Goodwin had five blocks for Memphis.

02/15 17:38:46 ET

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ATL 7
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