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DeAndre Daniels leads dismantling of the No. 1 Gators
If all hope looks lost for UConn in the national championship game, don’t believe it.
Don’t say UConn is finished. Don’t change the channel. Don’t leave the arena.
Against Florida, the Huskies clawed through an opponent and dire expectations again and not for the first time in this Tournament. UConn trailed by 16-4 Saturday to a team that had won 30 in a row, but the Huskies continued their improbable run to the national championship game with a 63-53 win over Florida.
A dozen points with nearly 30 minutes to play is nothing. Remember, UConn trailed by 3 with 50 seconds to go in the round of 64 against Saint Joseph’s before winning in overtime. This is a team that lost by 33 to Louisville in the final game of the regular season, a team that was swept by SMU.
But this is a team that seems to thrive on doubts, led by a coach who was on a one-year contract until Dec. 2012.
UConn responded by holding Florida to a season-low 53 points and becoming the first team to top a point per possession against the Gators since Feb. 22.
Game MVP: DeAndre Daniels, UConn
The Huskies aren’t a one-man team despite all the praise that goes to UConn. For the second time in this Tournament, Daniels was the focal point of the Huskies’ offense. The junior scored 20 points and added 10 rebounds while shooting 9-of-14 from the field. Napier scored 13 points, but caused problems for Florida on penetration while bottling up Scottie Wilbekin.
Telling stat: 3 assists for Florida
Florida had its lowest-scoring game of the season in part because of bad shots and ineffective point guard play. The most embarrassing number there was three assists for the Gators, four fewer than Florida’s lowest total of the season.
How UConn won:
UConn fell behind 16-4 early but switched to a small lineup three ball-handling guards — Napier, Ryan Boatright and Terrence Samuel. The change sparked a first-half run and helped shut down Florida’s guards. The Huskies had six steals, including four from Napier.
How Florida lost:
The Gators’ point guards were ineffective. Wilbekin had his worst game of the season, and freshman backup Kasey Hill couldn’t fill in. TBS reports indicated Wilbekin struggled with cramps and had his knees iced in the bench. In any event, Wilbekin, who carried the Gators through the first two weeks, was a mere 2-of-9 from the field with three turnovers and couldn’t get past Napier all night.
Key for UConn in the national championship game:
Is there anything UConn can’t do? The Huskies just shot 55.8 percent against the best defensive team in the country and needed only three baskets from Napier to win by 10. The Huskies played lights out defensively and shot 10 of 13 from the field. UConn probably doesn’t want to try its luck by falling behind by 12 again, but who is going to pick against the Huskies anymore?