HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) There are plenty of great guard tandems in the American Athletic Conference.
UConn made a case Saturday that it might have the best.
Shabazz Napier scored a career-high 34 points and Ryan Boatright added 21, eight in overtime, and the 24th-ranked Huskies beat No. 20 Memphis 86-81 to sweep the season series from the Tigers.
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The pair combined to make 20 of 24 free throws. Boatright added six assists, while Napier had four assists and five rebounds.
They helped force 18 Memphis turnovers, while UConn committed just six.
”You have got to have guards in this game,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. ”We have some terrific bigs and Memphis has some terrific bigs, but at the end of the day, the guards can make so much happen on the perimeter and break defenses down.”
Memphis guard Joe Jackson had 24 points and seven assists to lead the Tigers (19-6, 8-4). Geron Johnson added 15 points and eight rebounds before fouling out. Chris Crawford added 12 points.
The game was tied at 69 at the end of regulation and UConn opened the extra period on a 7-2 run. But Memphis cut it to 76-74 after a Michael Dixon hit a 3-pointer.
Napier responded with one of his five 3-pointers and the Huskies held on.
The UConn senior had a shot to win the game in regulation, but his fall-away 3-pointer at the buzzer bounced around the rim and out.
”I thought it was going in,” Napier said. ”I didn’t get my feet under me, which is why it kind of twirled. It didn’t go in, but we kept fighting. We were able to get the win.”
Trailing 69-66 with less than a minute to go in regulation, Napier drove the lane, drawing Johnson’s fourth foul and completing the 3-point play to tie the game.
DeAndre Daniels then blocked a layup attempt by Shaq Goodwin on the other end. The two teams scrambled for the loose ball. A scrum and some pushing ensued and the referees gave UConn the ball after reviewing the play on video.
”All you can ask for is a shot to tie or win the game,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. ”We had our chance.”
It was one of two key blocks for Daniels, who finished with eight points. The other came in overtime with the Huskies up by one point, and led to a 3-pointer on the other end by Boatright.
The Huskies shot just 39 percent from the floor, but made 29 of 36 free throws. Memphis, which shot 55 percent, had just nine foul shots, making six of them.
Johnson fouled out on the first possession in overtime.
”Sometimes calls go your way, sometimes they don’t,” Pastner said. ”That’s not the reason we lost.”
Napier shot 10 of 21 for the game and hit 5 of 12 attempts from behind the arc. Boatright was just 4 of 12, but hit 11 of 12 foul shots.
Memphis led 46-43 early in the second half before Napier decided to take charge of the Huskies offense. He scored 14 of UConn’s next 17 points and his 3-pointer gave UConn a 58-51 lead.
The Tigers scratched back. They trailed 66-61 with 6 minutes left, but took a 67-66 lead on a Jackson layup and extended it to three points when Jackson found David Pellom for a dunk.
It was a game of big runs in the first half.
Memphis jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, getting two quick 3-pointers from Crawford and Johnson.
The Tigers led 12-5 before UConn went on an 18-2 run, holding Memphis without a field goal for almost 5 minutes. Napier had eight points during the run, including a pair of 3-pointers.
But the Tigers then scored the next 11 points to take a 25-23 lead.
A dunk from Austin Nichols sending Memphis into halftime trailing 36-35.
”We knew they were going to come out with a lot of fire from warm-ups,” Boatright said. ”There was a lot of talking at midcourt during warm-ups, so we knew we were going to get their best shot. We just knew we had to come out and take care of business.”
Boatright’s first point of the game, a free throw, gave him 1,000 for his career. He’s the 48th UConn player to reach that mark.
UConn moved into a tie with Memphis, a half-game behind SMU for third place in the conference.
The Huskies won the first meeting on Jan. 16 by 10 points, hitting their final seven shots from the floor.
UConn has won nine of its past 11 games, while the Tigers fell for just the third time in their past 11.
Memphis has six more games this season, with three more on the road and two against other teams that have already beaten the Tigers this year – No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 25 SMU.
The Huskies’ remaining games include matchups with Cincinnati, SMU and No. 13 Louisville.