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Role players key UConn's 63-53 win over Florida

Connecticut's Defense Comes Up Big

BY JOHN MARSHALL
AP BASKETBALL WRITER

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Connecticut will not ride a one-man gang into the national championship game this time.

Shabazz Napier is still the leader, but DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright have taken their turns at the wheel.

Daniels carried UConn out of an early funk to finish with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Boatright gave the Huskies a lift at both ends in a 63-53 victory over Florida in the Final Four Saturday night

Napier was quiet early, but still finished with a steady game, finishing with 12 points and six assists.

But it was Daniels and Boatright who proved to be the difference-makers for the seventh-seeded Huskies (31-8), earning them a spot in Monday's championship game against Kentucky or Wisconsin.

Daniels helped UConn dig out of a big early hole by scoring inside and out, and hit a couple of big shots down the stretch to prevent Florida (36-3) from rallying. He made 9 of 14 shots against the Gators, the top overall seed who had won 30 straight until Saturday night.

Comfortable in his role as Napier's sidekick, Boatright was like a bulldog all night, consistently getting inside Florida's defense and combining with Napier to hold ailing Gators star Scottie Wilbekin (cramps) to four points and one assist.

The Huskies had been down this road before: A scrappy, unheralded team making a deep NCAA tournament run behind a do-it-all guard who practically willed them to victories with big shots and big moments.

In 2011, it was Kemba Walker darting and dashing his way through the bracket while leading UConn to its third national title - all under Jim Calhoun.

Napier was a freshman on that team and learned from his mentor, becoming the carry-the-team player in Storrs many times this season.

But he hasn't done it completely alone.

Boatright has been interchangeable with Napier in the backcourt, playing shooting guard when Napier runs the point, leading the team when Napier shifts to the two spot or heads to the bench. He also turned into UConn's point-guard stopper, hounding the opposing team's floor leader into mistakes and generally making life much harder all around.

Daniels was sort of an enigma at times during the regular season for the Huskies, showing off flashes of his athleticism some games, disappearing in others.

The junior forward has been steady during the NCAA tournament, though, including a 27-point, 10-rebound game in the Sweet 16 against Iowa State.

Napier did most of the work in an early-season win over Florida, hitting a game-winning jumper at the buzzer while scoring 26 points in a one-point victory - the Gators' last loss before stringing together a 30-game win streak into the Final Four.

The Huskies had trouble with the spotlight in Jerry Jones' $1 billion sports palace, falling into holes of 7-0 and 16-4 as the Gators contained Napier, for the most part.

Daniels helped UConn shake its funk, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and sailing in for a dunk during an 11-0 run that got the Huskies back in it.

Boatright had a quiet first half before starting to find seams in Florida's defense. He got to the rim a few times without much hassle against the long Gators and was able to find open shooters when they did cut off his lanes.

Boatright also helped lead the charge against Wilbekin, adding to his cramping woes by helping Napier hound his every step.

When it was over, the Huskies again were underdogs headed to the national championship - this time with a pair of sidekicks helping the star get there.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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lthrnck68 April 06 2014 at 8:29 AM

So-called experts all picked Florida. I'm laughing.

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1 reply
harkone75 lthrnck68 April 06 2014 at 9:34 AM

Gator's were not the best team in the tourney from day ONE...they had it real easy until U-Conn...Way to go U...congrads all day long.

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billhtfdct April 06 2014 at 8:08 AM

SIMPLY....GO UCONN!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
bilhee April 06 2014 at 7:32 AM

Congrats to the Huskies..and the Wildcats too…but the awful thing I noticed last night was the fact they play the final four in a FOOTBALL STADIUM..Wonder if there are ANY good seats..and the NCAA gets richer and richer and richer..Just what do they do with all that money?????

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2 replies
jdsept bilhee April 06 2014 at 8:02 AM

Seats way up high available. Scalpers will sell you great seats but you gotta pay big time. The money, most goes back to the colleges, the teams playing, the conferences themselves etc. Remember almost all colleges operate in the red and get tax dollars from you. So what ever is made lessens your tax dollars. So many college sports produce little or no revenue, so the money making ones help there. Most college athletic programs again operate in the red. We know of the big schools with very successful sports programs but for every one of them there is probably 10 losing huge amounts of money. Lets face it, most citizens demand their colleges run sports programs. Living near UConn if any suggestion was made to end women's or men's college hoop there would be riots. LOL LOL Also with Title 9, for every scholarship for males, one must be offered for females so this money helps there. This year UConn gets over 200 million from state taxpayers as to keeping the university open, added to this is fed dollars also coming from tax payers. Also 1 billion has been allotted over the next 10 years to expand the university. With females being tax payers for the university and also 50% of the student body, they also deserve scholarships at the same level as men. This year students pay over $23,000 to go and stay at UConn which doesn't cover costs. Up until 1973, UConn had no fees as to tuition it was free. Percentage of funding related to tax dollars ha been dropping ever since. Now UConn is a tad over 1% as to the whole state budget. With times being as they are you can't ask more from the tax payers.

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davedoe12 bilhee April 06 2014 at 8:53 AM

The executives need their bonuses :)

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harkone75 April 06 2014 at 9:32 AM

I live in Florida...Three teams rule here...FSU, Miami and Florida...most are a fan of one...FSU and Miami fans get along pretty well...one thing is for sure...a real U fan or FSU fan would never cheer for the Gators...we don't want to listen to the trash they talk for another year...Good-Bye Gators from having a chance to win the top prize this year...you had it easy all the way...now go home and shut up.

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2 replies
mzharleywood harkone75 April 06 2014 at 10:42 AM

hrkone75 - As a third generation Floridian, and middle of a long line of UF alumni...I am proud of our entire state's athletic abilities......FSU, The U and UF..all of them! I would cheer for either of those in a win over a non-Florida school. IE: Not a huge fan of Jameis Winston, but cheered for FSU in the BCS game...
It's true tho' that the Gators blew this one...still, The U, and FSU were home watching them TV....
GO GATORS!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Joepalooka harkone75 April 06 2014 at 10:56 AM

insert ky wildcats and you have a mirror image complaint on obnoxious fans.

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Delores April 06 2014 at 1:43 AM

Boatwright!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
andrelmcguire April 06 2014 at 11:46 PM

Lets Go Huskies!!!!

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Joan April 06 2014 at 6:15 AM

As much as those sportscasters and media last evening, clearly wanted to see Florida win, our beloved UConn shined again! Good for them. We love you, UConn, back home. No matter what, we are proud of you!! And, kudos to Florida for playing a great game.

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3 replies
aunteejoanie April 06 2014 at 5:56 AM

I thought something was wrong with my TV set last night. Seems like I was tuned into some TV station in Florida. Why? The announcers for the game doing the play-by-play, color commentary, and interviews appeared to be so biased and pro-Florida that it got pretty obnoxious. It got so bad that I was cheering on UCONN. I love the underdog, and the announcers did nothing but paint UCONN as the underdog even more.

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3 replies
heidekatrosbooks April 06 2014 at 8:50 AM

It always amazes me how hateful people can get. Those basketball players are kids!!! They play their hearts out. And by the end of the day they respect one another, and they know that some days you don't have it to give what it takes to win. Without rivalry there is no contest., but it should not evolve into hatred. Shame on you Ithrnck68 and bentbouy1 and for hiding behind a fake name. Go Gators!!!

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2 replies
davedoe12 heidekatrosbooks April 06 2014 at 8:52 AM

At the end of the day, they respect each other? I doubt it.

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harkone75 heidekatrosbooks April 06 2014 at 9:33 AM

Gator Hater here...

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Joepalooka April 06 2014 at 10:54 AM

wow, one of the largest point wins in the meaningful rounds in the tourney whan just nearly every win was eked out in the last coupla minutes. Rooting for the Huskies over the 'one and done' (albeit talented) wildcats!

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