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UConn is one win away from the program’s fifth Final Four appearance.
Think about that.
When the season started did you really think this team would be playing in the regional finals on Sunday?
Not a chance.
Seventh-seeded UConn disposed of third-seeded Iowa State, 81-76, on Friday in the Sweet Sixteen at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies (29-8) are making their 11th trip to the Elite Eight and first since 2011.
Up next: fourth-seeded Michigan State, which beat top-seeded Virginia, 61-59, in the second game of the doubleheader Friday. It is the Spartans’ 12th trip to the regional final.
Game time for Sunday’s Elite Eight game is 2:20 p.m.
Here’s a post-game breakdown and look ahead:
-- UConn and Michigan State last played in the season opener last season in Germany. The Huskies won, 66-62, giving coach Kevin Ollie’s a win his head coaching debut.
-- Junior DeAndre Daniels had a career night, leading the team in points (27) and rebounds (10). He scored 29 points in the previous two NCAA tournament games.
In the second half, Daniels dominated, scoring 19 points. He went 10-for-15 from the field overall.
Daniels has four double-doubles this season.
-- UConn’s backcourt of senior Shabazz Napier (19 points) and junior Ryan Boatright (16) helped control the tempo and hit big shots.
The Huskies limited the high-powered Cyclones to just eight fast break points and six 3-pointers.
-- Napier came out firing away from 3-point land, sinking 4-of-5 in the first half. The Huskies went 7-for-12 before intermission and 2-for-7 after from beyond the arc.
-- UConn has won five straight Sweet Sixteen games, improving to 11-6 overall.
-- The Huskies never trailed after taking a 5-3 lead. They had a 36-26 edge at halftime, improving to 24-3 when leading at the break.
They shot 52 percent from the floor overall. It was their highest field goal percentage in an NCAA game since hitting 57.9 percent in a win over Texas A&M in 2009.
-- Some former UConn players were in attendance, including Richard Hamilton, Khalid El-Amin and Jake Voskuhl, three members of the 1999 national championship team.
Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun also was at the game.
“It was great,” coach Kevin Ollie said of the former players at the game. “That’s the culture that we have around the University of Connecticut. … It’s just a family atmosphere."
Ollie thanked the UConn fans who turned out to support their Huskies.
“We can really hear them cheering for us, but then we could also feed off them,” Ollie said. “We can also draw off their energy. They just did a wonderful job.”
Napier added: “It felt like a home game.”
-- Iowa Stateforward Dustin Hogue easily scored inside on UConn, finishing with a career-high 34 points. He went 15-for-19 from the field, the rest of the team hit 17 of 50.
-- UConn freshman Terrence Samuel, a reserve guard from Brooklyn, had quite a homecoming game. He chipped in 10 points, three rebounds and two assists and didn’t commit a turnover.
“He stepped up big time,” Ollie said.
-- After his team’s win Friday night, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had little to say about facing UConn. He was too focused on preparing to try beat Virginia to think about the Huskies prior to Friday night.
-- Check back tomorrow afternoon when UConn and Michigan State will meet with the media.
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.