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USF loses to Connecticut 69-64 in OT

Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, left, and Victor Rudd of the South Florida Bulls celebrate the team’s strong first-half performance against the Connecticut Huskies at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut, Sunday, February 3, 2013. (John Woike/Hartford Courant/MCT) 1134473

Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, left, and Victor Rudd of the South Florida Bulls celebrate the team’s strong first-half performance against the Connecticut Huskies at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut, Sunday, February 3, 2013. (John Woike/Hartford Courant/MCT) 1134473

STORRS, Conn. — In recent years, at least, when USF and Connecticut have faced each other, there has been a pretty good chance the game will go to overtime.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, there has also been a very good chance that UConn will win.

It was a bit of Groundhog Day a day late Sunday, as UConn rallied back from a dreadful first-half performance to force overtime then rode a trio of Shabazz Napier 3-pointers to land a 69-64 victory over USF before 9,205 at Gampel Pavilion.

Napier, a junior guard, missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer at the end of regulation but then hit three consecutive 3s in OT to put the Huskies (15-5, 5-3 Big East) ahead for good. He scored 11 of his game-high 24 in the extra session.

"I just feel like the guys give me a chance to take the shots, I'm willing to do it — make or miss," Napier said. "I was lucky to knock them down."

The teams have gone to overtime three of the past six times they've played, with the Huskies winning all three. UConn is now 10-1 all-time against the Bulls and 7-1 since USF joined the Big East.

The Bulls (10-11, 1-8) switched between man-to-man and zone defense throughout the first half and held UConn to 18.5 percent (5-for-27) shooting. USF held a 27-15 lead at the break, the fewest points by UConn in a half since a 30-9 deficit against Massachusetts in 2002 (a game the Huskies also won).

"We just came out and played terrible in the first half," Huskies point guard Ryan Boatright said. "I think that's the worst I've ever seen us play as a team and individually."

The Bulls knew UConn would make a comeback.

"Basketball is a game of runs," USF senior forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick said. "We knew they were going to go on a run, so we just had to sustain the run and go on a little push ourselves. It just got out of our hands in overtime."

Indeed, the Huskies scored the first 10 of the second half and eventually took a 30-29 lead a little more than three minutes in on Boatright's 3-pointer.

There were six lead changes and five ties the rest of the half, capped by Anthony Collins' running bank shot with 11.7 seconds left that tied the score at 52. Napier's long 3-point attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.

Napier hit back-to-back 3-pointers within the first 90 seconds of overtime, and after Victor Rudd hit a layup for the Bulls, Napier added a third to put the Huskies up 61-54.

UConn wound up shooting 29.8 percent for the game.

"You tell me we're going to hold them to 29 percent shooting, 33 percent from 3, and we're going to outrebound them (43-41), I'm thinking we're leaving here with a win," USF coach Stan Heath said. "We had great opportunities. We didn't close the game very well."

Fitzpatrick finished with a season-high 22 points (including five 3-pointers) to go with 10 rebounds to lead the Bulls. Rudd added 12 points and Collins 10 for USF, which hosts Marquette at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

USF loses to Connecticut 69-64 in OT 02/03/13 [Last modified: Sunday, February 3, 2013 8:59pm]
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