STORRS, Conn. — Shabazz Napier is the top player on No. 12 Connecticut and is one of the most clutch players in the nation. The point guard, who led the undefeated Huskies to another win Monday night with a buzzer-beating jumper, has higher comparisons in mind.
"Growing up I wanted to be Superman. Everyone wants to be a hero," he said, surrounded by media after a lovefest with the UConn fans in Gampel Pavilion. "I just felt I was fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time."
That would have been the free-throw line, where he gathered a loose ball after teammate DeAndre Daniels tipped back Napier's miss of an off-balance shot and buried a jumper at the buzzer to give the Huskies a 65-64 victory over No. 15 Florida.
"It went in slow motion," said Napier, who had 26 points and made a four-point play with 33 seconds to go. "Point nine. Point eight. I just tried to shoot the ball as quick as I can but still shoot it regular. As soon as I let it go I felt it was going in."
Napier, limping a bit on a left ankle he hurt while making the four-point play, escaped a trap around 30 feet from the basket, recovered the ball and missed a wild shot that was tipped blindly back by Daniels.
"I was just trying to get a tip-in in case he missed," Daniels said. "I guess I glanced it a little bit but what an amazing player Shabazz is. He hit a great shot. He willed his team to win that game."
Florida coach Billy Donovan was happy with how his team defended the last possession. It was the loose ball rebounds leading to Napier's four-point play that disappointed him.
"We made the decision we would trap him and we got him to take a very difficult off-balance shot," Donavan said. "The guy who won the game for them was DeAndre Daniels, who made an unbelievable tip out when he was off balance which kept the ball alive. We had guys on Napier who ran to the rim to defensive rebound which left a space for Napier."
Napier's jumper went through as the horn sounded and set off a deafening cheer from the sellout crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion. He was 9-of-15 from the field and made 5 of 8 3-pointers.
"Shabazz was phenomenal," Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. "When we needed the big shot he hit it. When we needed the big play he made it."
The Huskies (8-0) and Gators (6-2), who had a five-game winning streak snapped, exchanged the lead six times in the final six minutes. UF next plays Kansas, at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 in Gainesville.