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The two-year wait is finally over
UConn will finally play its first NCAA tournament game tonight since 2012.
“We’re back where we belong,” coach Kevin Ollie said.
First up: A dangerous Saint Joseph’s University.
Here’s a pre-game preview
Tip-off time: 6:55 p.m. (TBS)
Location: First Niagara Center, Buffalo
Records: Seventh-seeded UConn 26-8, No. 10 Saint Joseph’s 24-9
Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 sr. guard Shabazz Napier (17.4 pts, 5.9 rebs, 4.9 assists), 6-0 jr. guard Ryan Boatright (11.8 pts, 3.5 assists), 6-9 jr. forward DeAndre Daniels (12.5 pts, 5.8 rebs), 6-7 sr. forward Niels Giffey (8.5 pts, 3.4 rebs), 7-0 fr. center Amida Brimah (4.3 pts, 3.1 rebs 2.5 blks)
Saint Joseph’s, 6-3 jr. guard Chris Wilson (9.0 pts), 6-2 sr. guard Langston Galloway (17.5 pts, 4.3 rebs), 6-6 fr. forward DeAndre Bembry (12.0 pts, 4.5 rebs), 6-8 sr. forward Ronald Roberts (14.4 pts, 7.4 rebs), 6-8 sr. forward Halil Kanacevic (10.7 pts, 8.8 rebs, 4.4 assists)
-- Here’s coach Ollie’s scouting report: "We’re going to have our work cut out for us. Galloway is an exceptional shooter. … They’ve got other players. Bembry is a great freshman that’s kind of their energizer. He can get it off the rebound and push it.
“And what makes them tough, four guys can get a rebound and push it and start their fast break. … Then they’ve got a great motion offense that coach (Phil) Martelli has been using for years. We’re going to have to stay packed in our principles and play great basketball.”
-- Series: UConn leads 4-2, winning 67-61 in the only NCAA match-up in 1965. It is the first regular season meeting since 1989.
-- The Hawks are 20-5 since losing to Villanova on Dec. 7. They’re one of six Atlantic 10 teams to qualify for the tournament.
“We’ve got to show up and show them a lot of respect because they deserve it,” Napier said. “We’ve just got to play the best basketball we can possibly play.”
-- Player to watch: Kanacevic, most outstanding player of A-10 championship tourney. He leads the team in assists, rebounds and blocks.
-- All five St. Joe’s starters average at least 31.8 minutes, so the bench is not deep. The top reserve is 6-7 forward Isaiah Miles (3.2 pts, 1.8 rebs).
-- The Huskies will need to prevent the Hawks from heating up from 3-point land. Saint Joseph’s averages 7.4 per game while Galloway is the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. He made a school-record 10 this season against Fordham.
-- Hot: Daniels is averaging 15.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in last four games. Cold: UConn is shooting 40.5 percent in last 10 games.
-- The Huskies own a 7-5 record vs. the NCAA field and the Hawks are 6-5.
-- UConn is 52-29 in 31 NCAA appearances, including 29-5 in the first two rounds. St. Joe’s is 18-23 in 19 trips.
-- No one on the Saint Joseph’s roster has ever played in an NCAA game. The Hawks are making their first appearance since 2008.
-- The Hawks are determined to pull off an upset and win their first NCAA game since 2004.
“We definitely want to go out there and shock some people,” Galloway said.
-- Both teams enjoyed success in previous NCAA trips to Buffalo in 2004.
UConn beat Vermontand DePaul and went on to win a national championship. Saint Joseph’s defeated Libertyand Texas Tech and reached the Elite Eight.
-- Up next: Winner plays either No. 2 Villanova or No. 15Milwaukee on Saturday. Those two teams play the late game tonight.
-- Check back later for a post-game breakdown and video.
-- For regular updates, follow me on Twitter @GavinKeefe
Today’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal doubleheader is underway here at the XL Center in Hartford. A crowd in the 12,000-13,000 range is expected for the UConn-Tulsa game. Tip-off time is 5 p.m.