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UConn faces a major roadblock tonight in the East Regional semifinals at Madison Square Garden.
Iowa State, a legitimate No. 3 seed, is playing a lethal brand of basketball.
The crowd will be on UConn’s side. But the Huskies will need more than rabid fan support to advance to the regional finals for the first time since 2011.
Here’s a pre-game preview:
-- Records: Seventh-seeded UConn 28-8, No. 3 Iowa State 28-7
-- Last game: UConn beat second-seeded Villanova, 77-65, Saturday; Iowa State defeated sixth-seeded North Carolina, 85-83, Sunday
-- Probable starters:
UConn, 6-1 sr. guard Shabazz Napier (17.8 pts, 5.9 rebs, 4.9 assists), 6-0 jr. guard Ryan Boatright (11.9 pts, 3.5 assists), 6-9 jr. forward DeAndre Daniels (12.6 pts, 5.7 rebs), 6-7 sr. forward Niels Giffey (8.4 pts, 3.7 rebs), 6-10 so. center Phil Nolan (3.6 pts, 2.4 rebs)
Iowa State, 6-2 fr. guard Monte Morris (6.6 pts, 3.7 assists), 6-4 sr. guard DeAndre Kane (17.1 pts, 6.8 rebs, 5.8 assists), 6-6 jr. forward Dustin Hogue (10.9 pts, 8.5 rebs), 6-6 sr. forward Melvin Ejim (18.1 pts, 8.4 rebs), 6-8 jr. forward Daniel Edozie (1.0 pts, 1.6 rebs)
-- This is the 17th Sweet Sixteen 16 appearance for UConn, which is 10-6 in the previous trips. Iowa State is playing in its fourth regional semifinal game.
-- UConn is playing its sixth ranked foe in the last seven games. Iowa State is ranked ninth.
-- The Cyclones have won six straight, with all six wins against teams in the NCAA field.
-- Home court advantage: The Huskies own a 59-52 record at Madison Square Game, including beating Boston College and Indiana last November.
The Cyclones are 1-2 all-time in the building, playing here for the first time since 2004.
-- Players to watch for Iowa State: Ejim is the Big 12 player of the year. He leads the conference in scoring. He’s the only Cyclone to play against UConn in the 2012 NCAA tournament game inLouisville, scoring 11 points in his team’s win.
Kane, the most outstanding player in the Big 12 conference tournament, is Iowa State’s best all-around player. He’s averaging 19 points, 8.5 rebounds and six assists in two NCAA games.
-- Top reserve: 6-4 so. guard Naz Long (7.1 pts) is a perimeter threat, sinking team-high five 3-pointers in the last two games.
-- Injury list: Iowa State’s Georges Niang, a starting forward, is out with a broken foot. Edozie replaced Niang in the starting lineup.
-- UConn will be stressing disciplined team defense to try to slow down the nation’s fifth highest scoring team. A balanced Iowa State averages 83.2 points per and also ranks first in the nation in assists (18.5) and second in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.75).
The Cyclones have been sizzling hot from 3-point land in the NCAA tournament, sinking 49 percent (21-for-43).
“All those guys shoot,” coach Kevin Ollie said. “They always catch shot ready and ready to make an impact on the game. So we’re going to have to really play.”
-- The Huskies have trailed in their first two NCAA games before rallying for wins against Saint Joseph’s and Villanova.
They can’t afford to fall behind early tonight. They’re 5-5 this season when trailing at halftime. The Cyclones are 20-0 when leading at halftime.
-- Look for UConn’s defensive specialist Lasan Kromah, a 6-6 foot swingman, to play an important role off the bench. He might be the perfect candidate to help contain Kane.
-- Key match-up: Napier vs. Kane.
Napier has carried the Huskies to this point, averaging 24.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the NCAA games.
A 6-4 guard, Kane is Iowa State’s Mr. Everything. He’s averaging 19 points, 8.5 rebounds and six assists in the last two games. He scored the game-winning basket against North Carolina on Sunday.
“He’s definitely their motor,” Napier said. “He gets them going. that’s what great players do. … We’ve just got to try our best to contain him.”
-- The Huskies are 34-8 in last 12 NCAA trips, dating back to 1999.
-- Iowa State is 10-2 as the higher seed in NCAA tourney.
-- For regular updates, follow me on Twitter @GavinKeefe
-- Check back later for a post-game breakdown and video
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.