STORRS, Conn. — Shabazz Napier was battling a fever, had just one assist and six turnovers while watching an 18-point Connecticut lead shrink to eight on Monday night.
Then he decided to take over.
Napier scored seven points during an 11-2 run that put the game away, and the No. 4 Huskies went on to beat Wagner 78-66, the 13th consecutive victory for the defending NCAA champions.
Napier, who finished with 21 points, said his teammates were slowing the game down, and he decided enough was enough.
“I was just like, gimme, gimme, gimme, and I took (the ball) and I laid it up with my left hand,” he said. “Those times, that’s when I tell myself I’ve got to do something now, so Coach (Jim Calhoun) won’t stress upon my teammates.”
Jeremy Lamb added 20 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies (2-0), who have never lost at Gampel Pavilion during the months of November or December.
Latif Rivers scored 11 points and Tyler Murray added 10, all in the first half, for Wagner (1-1).
After outrebounding Columbia by just two and being outrebounded 20-10 on the offensive end in their opener, the Huskies made crashing the boards a point of emphasis. They outrebounded Wagner 42-24, including 18-11 offensively.
“Coach said we have to rebound better, and I definitely think the frontcourt did a pretty good job of that,” said Alex Oriakhi, who had eight points and nine rebounds. “We limited second shots and things like that, and it definitely helped our fast break.”
Wagner committed 28 fouls, and Connecticut made 31 of 43 free throws.