ARLINGTON — UConn head coach Kevin Ollie talks a good game. Turns out, his Huskies can back up their bark with a bite. "I knew this team was destined for greatness," Ollie said in a post-game press conference.
After a slow start that saw UConn down 4-16 against the No.1 Florida Gators, the Huskies went on a run on their own. And they never looked back, rolling to a 63-53 win in the first game of the Final Four semifinals Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
UConn's star player Shabazz Napier wasn't much of a factor in his team's critical 11-0 run in the first half, but when the shots are falling, it doesn't matter who's knocking them down.
"I knew this team was destined for greatness," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said.
"We are so unselfish, we don't really care who is doing the scoring," said guard Ryan Boatright, one of four UConn players in double figures.
The seventh-seeded Huskies shot nearly 50 percent in the first half and over 60 percent in the second. Despite a menacing looking Florida full-court press, UConn had little trouble bringing the ball up. In fact, it was the Huskies' defense that left an impression.
"We just wanted to be relentless," Ollie said. "We live and we die on defense."
Florida head coach Billy Donovan praised UConn's defense, saying his team had a hard time handling the pressure. Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin summarized his now 36-3 team's struggles succinctly. "They were being really aggressive, and the shots that we did get we couldn't get to fall," he said.
The Gators shot just 35 percent in the first half and 42 percent in the second. Couple poor shooting with high turnovers (Florida had 11), and the Gators were lucky it was even close.
For most of the game, UConn appeared to be having a ball, tossing up alley-oops and nailing threes. DeAndre Daniels, who led all scorers with 20 points, said his team wanted to make a statement.
"We feel like we've been doubted all season," Daniels said. "We like to go out and try to prove people wrong."
Napier didn't dominate the floor like he's done so many times before, but he didn't seem to care. His team is still playing. When asked why he ran down the court with a single finger raised, Napier showed that signature UConn confidence.
"It's simple — one more to go."