PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas -- Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb held off pesky UNC Asheville -- and showed again that Connecticut might have the best backcourt tandem in the country.
Napier and Lamb each scored 23 points to help No. 4 Connecticut run its winning streak to 16 games with a 73-63 victory over UNC Asheville on Thursday night in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.Napier made four 3-pointers, including a late 4-point play, and also had seven assists and three steals for the defending national champion Huskies (5-0). Connecticut shot 52 percent (25 of 47) from the field and 40.9 percent (9 of 22) from 3-point range to easily overcome 19 turnovers."Overall, a win is a win, but no one's played us even near that hard since we played Butler last year," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun, whose team beat Butler in the NCAA title game last season.The Huskies will face Central Florida in the second round. UCF beat College of Charleston 74-63.Matt Dickey led Asheville (2-3) with 18 points, and Jeremy Atkinson added 18."Matt Dickey had a great game," UNC Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "(J.P. Primm) had an off night. ... I wouldn't trade these two for anybody."After UConn raced to a 16-3 lead and took a 38-29 advantage in the second half, the Bulldogs' Chris Stephenson hit a 3-pointer to cut UConn lead to seven with 17:12 to play."We've played in games where we had to fight back," Dickey said. "When we cut it there, we definitely had a feeling we could make a comeback. A couple breaks that would have gone our way, and we could have gotten it closer and made a real run of it at the end."But the next time down the floor, Napier kept it himself, sending his defender into the air with a pump fake, then getting into the lane for an acrobatic layup.Napier and Lamb then combined for 3-pointers on UConn's next four field goals."Jeremy made some shots I hadn't seem him make before," Calhoun said.