Sporting the nation's longest ranked Connecticut Huskies hit the hardwood for the second of three straight games in three days this afternoon as they challenge the UCF Knights in the semifinal round of the Battle 4 Atlantis at Imperial Arena in the Bahamas.
The Huskies, the defending national champions, had some trouble separating themselves from Thursday's opponent, UNC Asheville, but eventually the team was able to produce a 73-63 victory. With the win, UConn is now just seven shy of tying the school's all-time win streak which stands at 23 in a row set back in 1995-96, and needs three more triumphs to match the second all-time win streak for the program which came three years later.
As for the Knights, they advanced on the winner's side of the bracket by besting the College of Charleston by a score very similar to UConn's, 74-63. The win was the second in a row for UCF and the third in four tries for the team on the season.
Against UCF, the Huskies have won all three previous meetings in the series, posting a 60-51 win as recently as 2009 at home.
Both programs will be back in action on Saturday, with the winner shooting for the tournament title against either Harvard or Florida State.
Keith Clanton delivered a huge double-double for the Knights on Thursday as he posted 28 points and 14 rebounds, adding three blocked shots, two assists and a couple of steals in order to offset five turnovers in the win against Charleston. Marcus Jordan contributed 17 points and six assists and Isaiah Sykes came up a rebound shy of his own double-double as he notched 10 points, although he shot just 3-of-10 from the floor and a dismal 4-of-13 at the free- throw line. Through four games Clanton is averaging a double-double with 19.3 points and 10.0 rebounds per contest, his 12 blocks also pacing the program, yet his free-throw shooting (.536) has to be a concern seeing as how much he handles the ball. Jordan is responsible for 16.3 ppg, although his 25.0 percent shooting behind the three-point line could use some adjustment because it is bringing the entire team down to only 26.3 percent on the season overall.
Clearly one of the best backcourts in the entire nation again this season, even though they no longer have Kemba Walker, the Huskies saw both Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier shine as the team dismissed UNC Asheville yesterday by double digits. Both players scored 23 points, with Napier getting the job done with 4-of-9 shooting behind the three-point line while adding seven of the unit's 16 assists. Lamb knocked down 3-of-7 from three-point range as well, contributing six rebounds which matched a team-high in the outing. If there was something the duo needed to work on it was the fact that they also combined for eight of the group's 19 turnovers and that allowed the Bulldogs to stick around for a little too long. Napier, who less than a week ago posted the ninth triple-double in school history against Coppin State, is second on the team in scoring (19.0 ppg) and first in assists (6.4 apg) while converting a solid 46.7 percent from beyond the arc, while Lamb delivers 22.8 ppg to pace the program overall.