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UConn spent a busy day here in New York preparing for Friday night’s East Regional semifinal game against Iowa State.
The Huskies practiced at Baruch College this morning before coming over to Madison Square Garden for a light afternoon workout.
Check out the attached video to get a look at what UConn did during its allotted 50 minutes of practice time.
UConn, Iowa State, Michigan State and Virginia all met with the media on Thursday afternoon.
Some news, notes and quotes from today:
-- Senior Shabazz Napier has recovered from a bruised shin suffered late in Saturday’s win over Villanova in Buffalo.
Iowa State is determined to slow down Napier, who averaged 24.5 points in the first two NCAA games.
Senior DeAndre Kane, a 6-foot-4 guard, will get the tough defensive assignment. He’s an all-around threat, too, averaging 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen a better guard in college basketball this year with what he does at the toughest time of the game,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said of Napier. “He’s just a hard-nosed, tough kid that knows how to play.
“DeAndre is the same for us. When we need something to happen, we put the ball in his hands. So, two guys that probably do it a little bit differently, but at the same time have the same winning effect on their teams.”
Kane hit a driving layup with 1.6 seconds left to beat North Carolina on Sunday and lift the Cyclones to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2000.
-- Junior DeAndre Daniels said UConn’s post-season goal: “We have one goal, and that’s to get to Dallas and win a national championship. We’re just going to take it game-by-game, and we’ve got Iowa State tomorrow.
“If we listen to the coaches and follow their game plan, we’re going to definitely come out with this win.”
-- Near the end of Thursday’s workout at MSG, Ollie worked with Daniels on his moves to the basket. Ollie even dug in on defense.
“We work out almost every day after every practice, just to get a couple of shots up and just stuff that’s in the flow of our offense,” Daniels said. “
-- Junior Ryan Boatright said the Huskies are hungry and focused for Friday’s Sweet Sixteen game.
“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be up and down and there’s going to be a lot of points scored. … We both want to win and we both want to move on. It’s definitely going to be fun.”
-- The Huskies must keep their defensive focus throughout the game. Iowa State averages 83.2 points per game, ranking fifth in the country in scoring.
“We’ve got to stay in the game, no matter what, if we get down or up 10,” Ollie said. “It’s going to be possession by possession. And the team that can compete and have discipline is going to be the team that’s going to win.”
-- Daniels said playing strong transition defense is important. The Cyclones love to run and fire up 3-pointers. They’re shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc in two NCAA tournament games.
“If we get back in transition and limit their threes in transition, I feel we’ll be pretty good because we have one of the best set defenses,” Daniels said.
-- UConn graduate student Lasan Kromah on the team’s mindset: "We feel confident. Our preparation is really good.”
-- Boatright on the benefit of playing before a pro-UConn crowd: “Anytime you’ve got the home crowd and a big fan base behind you, it’s always a plus. When you’re tired and you feel like you can’t run any more, that energy and that intensity and the fans screaming for us, it will drive you to get that 50-50 ball or that rebound.”
-- Hoiberg said playing at Madison Square Garden is a real treat for his team.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of arenas that would have the same impression that a place like Madison Square Garden would. They understand it. They see it. They go out there and see the banners. They see the jerseys up there. … They watched the Old Big East tournament here, and that was a pretty special event.
“So, yeah, to come to New York City and play in the Garden I still think has a great affect on these kids.”
It will be Iowa State’s first game at MSG since 2004. UConn won the Big East tournament title here in 2011.
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.