Video report by Beau Berman, Fox CT
Text by Dom Amore, Hartford Courant
NEW YORK – It’s one thing to have a majority of the fans rooting for you. It’s another to truly have a home court advantage, to feel at home in a building.
The Huskies worked the Big Room like they owned it Friday night, as if they knew every dead spot on the hardwood floor, every nuance of the rims. And when they were done hitting shots at a dazzling clip from all corners, and holding off a furious Iowa State comeback attempt, they had sent another higher-seeded team to pack for home.
DeAndre Daniels had 27 points and 10 rebounds, leading UConn to an 81-76 victory over Iowa State at Madison Square Garden. It’s now on to the NCAA‘s East Regional final, the Elite Eight, to play Virginia or Michigan State on Sunday. That game was late Friday.
The No. 7 seed Huskies are 40 minutes from the Final Four.
Shabazz Napier scored 19 and Ryan Boatright 16 as UConn’s marquee players dominated, perhaps the best game all three have ever played together. The Huskies made seven of their first 10 three-point shots, Napier hitting his first four, to build a solid lead, disrupting anything and everything the Cyclones tried to do offensively in the first half.
Daniels took over the game in the second half and the Huskies pulled away, leading by 17 and then had to fight off an Iowa State run. Though Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, the Cyclones’ top players, were largely shut down, a combined 8-for-29, Dustin Hogue scored 34 points. Iowa State, 9-for-29 in the first half, found its usual, fast-paced offense over the final 15 minutes and nearly took it away. Kane’s three-pointer cut UConn’s lead to seven points with 4:35 to go, and the Huskies were going to have to hold on tight, as they have had to do many times this season.
Two offensive fouls against Napier helped tip the momentum further and Monte Morris hit a three to make it a four-point game. But Niels Giffey, off an assist from Boatright, hit an enormously important three to stabilize it. Napier made two from the line with 47 seconds left, and UConn was 20-for-22 from the line to close it out there. Freshman Terrence Samuel scored 10 points, including several critical shots down the stretch.
Michigan hung on to beat Tennessee 73-71 in the other game early Friday.