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Napier’s triple-double provides lift to No. 4 UConn

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun thought a sprained ankle would keep leading scorer Jeremy Lamb out against Coppin State, so he had a quick chat with point guard Shabazz Napier an hour before the tipoff.

“He basically said run the team, be a leader, stay out of foul trouble and make sure we win the game,” Napier said.

Lamb was able to play, as it turned out, but Napier took Calhoun’s words to heart, compiling 22 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds to lead the No. 4 Huskies to an 87-70 win over the Eagles on Sunday.

Napier’s triple-double was the ninth in UConn history and the first since Kemba Walker had one last season against Maryland-Baltimore County. Walker sat in the front row behind the bench Sunday.

“(Napier) was really good today. I don’t care who we were playing, he was really good,” Calhoun said. “He threw some terrific passes. He went in and rebounded. Obviously he made big-time shots.”

Lamb, who sprained his right ankle during practice Saturday, scored 25 points to lead the Huskies (4-0).

Senior guard Tony Gallo had 21 points for Coppin State (1-3) after scoring 22 in a loss to Oklahoma on Friday. He had 17 against UConn in a game last year.

Napier, from Roxbury, Mass., and Gallo, from nearby Lynn, have played each other many times before. They have what Napier called “a rivalry where there’s a lot of love” and engaged in some playful trash-talking throughout the game.

Coppin State took an early 13-point lead and stayed relatively close to the defending national champions by making 12 3-pointers. But UConn held the Eagles at bay by making 74 percent (20 of 27) of its shots in the second half.

Lamb started slowly, learning only 15 minutes before the game that he would play, but scored UConn’s final seven points in the first half and its first five in the second half.

“Yesterday, I kept saying I was going to play, but in the back of my mind, I didn’t think I could,” Lamb said.

 

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