No. 18 UConn holds off Maryland Terps 78-77
- Maryland's Nick Faust (5) goes to the basket against Connecticut's Ryan Boatright (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in New York. UConn defeated Maryland 78-77. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
NEW YORK (AP) - Shabazz Napier scored 18 points, Niels Giffey had 13 and No. 18 Connecticut survived Maryland's second-half surge in a 78-77 victory Friday night.
The Huskies nearly blew all of a 17-point lead over the final minutes at Barclays Center in the season opener for both teams.
Maryland's Nick Faust scored five straight points on a layup and 3-pointer to bring the Terps within two with 2:28 left.
Tyler Olander drilled a 3 for UConn with 2 minutes left to make it 78-73. Napier was whistled for his fifth foul and Dez Wells made two free throws to cut it to 78-75. Wells hit a jumper out of a Maryland timeout and it was a one-point game.
UConn twice missed the front end of 1-and-1s but Maryland misfired from the floor on two potential go-ahead shots.
Faust led the Terps with 17 points. Wells, Evan Smotrycz and Jake Layman all scored 13 points.
With former coach Jim Calhoun in attendance, UConn won the opener under second-year coach Kevin Ollie. The Huskies went 20-10 last season, but failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament because of poor academic progress rates that predated anyone on the current roster.
They let a blowout slip into a close one.
The Huskies have more wins in one game than the football team (0-7) had entering Friday night. In an effort to get more fans to come and watch the winless football team, UConn opened the gates at Rentschler Field early and showed the basketball game on the video board before the Huskies played No. 20 Louisville.
UConn center Amida Brimah, out of Ghana, turned Maryland's ninth turnover midway through the second half into a true rim-rattling dunk. The 7-footer left the backboard swaying even as Maryland scored on the other end. By the time it settled, Omar Calhoun came down and swished a 3-pointer for a 59-47 lead.
Napier and Calhoun connected on consecutive 3s, stretching the lead to 65-50. Ryan Boatright turned the Barclays Center into Gampel Pavilion with one more fastbreak dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.
With the Huskies up 67-50, Napier was whistled for a technical foul, and Maryland responded with an 11-0 run to make it a game.
Layman hit two 3s during the run, using the long-distance sharp-shooting the Terps needed in the first half.
Brimah had three blocks in only 8 minutes in the first half, including consecutive rejections that pushed the lead to double digits. The freshman center blocked one shot, but the Huskies missed on the other end. Brimah had a block the next time down, and Giffey capitalized for the Huskies with a 3-pointer for a 41-31 lead.
Giffey's stock rose over the summer with his play for the German national team at EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia. After averaging 4.9 points last season at UConn, Giffey averaged more than 9.0 points for the German team playing against mostly professional competition.
Brimah's dunk for his only field goal of the half gave UConn a 13-point lead. The Huskies hit 6 of 13 3-pointers to lead 48-36 at halftime.