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Buffalo, N.Y. - About four years ago, UConn freshman Amida Brimah had never heard of March Madness.
Brimah, a freshman center from Ghana, sure knows all about it now.
He was an unlikely hero, delivering one of the game's biggest plays in UConn's 89-81 overtime win over Saint Joseph's in an NCAA tournament East Region opener.
With the Huskies trailing by three late in regulation, Brimah fought through traffic to secure an offensive rebound and scored on a short hook shot while drawing a foul. He calmly converted the game-tying free throw with 39 seconds left to force overtime.
"I was (nervous)," Brimah said of his free throw attempt, "but I was pretty confident because I've been working on my free throws.''
Saint Joseph's senior Halil Kanacevic regretted not boxing out Brimah.
"That was a pivotal moment," Kanacevic said. "I let these guys down. I should have boxed out better and never let him get the rebound. … I felt like that hurt us tremendously."
Brimah came off the bench to contribute nine points, six rebounds and one block. He also hit two free throws in overtime that put UConn ahead for good, 75-73, with 3:10 left.
His teammates talked about the poise Brimah showed under pressure, especially late in regulation when the freshman tied the game.
"He showed a lot of maturity and a lot of heart for that possession…," junior Ryan Boatright said. "He went to the line with his swag and knocked it down. It was a big play for us."
A defensive stand
UConn graduate student Lasan Kromah was assigned to guard sharp-shooter Langton Galloway for the majority of the second half and into overtime.
Galloway still scored 25 points but Kromah helped prevent the senior from making the game-changing baskets down the stretch. He went just 3-for-7 from the field after halftime.
"Lasan did a great job," coach Kevin Ollie said. "He was still making some unbelievable shots."
Kromah had four points, two rebounds and a steal in 27 minutes.
A history with Villanova
With a quick turnaround between games, UConn associate coach Glen Miller started to compile his scouting report earlier this week for the next opponent.
Miller sat in the First Niagara Center locker room after practice Wednesday watching Villanova's game against Butler on his iPad.
Of course, first UConn had to win its first game and No. 2 Villanova needed to defeat No. 15 Milwaukee in Thursday's late game.
The Wildcats won, so there will be a reunion between two former Big East opponents on Saturday.
News and notes
In the first game of the afternoon doubleheader, 11th-seeded Dayton, an Atlantic-10 Conference team that Saint Joseph's beat three times this season, scored the first big upset of the NCAA tournament, shocking No. 6 Ohio State, 60-59, on Vee Stanford's driving layup with 3.8 seconds left. … With his first assist of the game, Napier passed Kevin Ollie on the school's all-time assist list, taking over sole possession of third place. … UConn improved to 53-29, including 30-5 in the first two rounds. … The Huskies held their shoot-around at the University of Buffalo practice facility on Thursday instead of First Niagara Center because it is closer to their team hotel. … UConn is a seven seed for the first time. … In his last NCAA tournament game against Iowa State in 2012, Napier had a game-high 22 points in a 77-64 loss in the opener. He had 24 points on Thursday.