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NCAA notebook: Gibbs leads Huskies parade to the free throw line

Des Moines, Iowa — Sterling Gibbs could hear the voice of his mother while waiting to attempt pressure-packed free throws inside the final tense minute Thursday.

"Shoot 'em like you're in the backyard," Jacqui, his mom, yelled from the Wells Fargo Arena stands.

Mom knows best, so Gibbs calmly drained all six attempts in the final 42 seconds to help ninth-seeded UConn close out a come-from-behind 74-67 victory over eighth-seeded Colorado in NCAA tournament first-round action.

Gibbs, who came to UConn for his final year of eligibility after earning his undergraduate degree from Seton Hall last year, finished with 12 points and went 6-for-6 from the line.

"I was able to just tune everyone out and just knock them down," Gibbs said.

Foul shooting played a major factor in UConn's win and also in its 2014 national championship run. The Huskies, who entered the game leading the nation in free throw shooting at 78.7 percent, converted 22 of 23 (95.7 percent). The mark was the sixth best in NCAA tournament history.

By comparison, Colorado went just 19-for-30.

The Huskies work extremely hard on free throw shooting during practice. Entering the game, Daniel Hamilton (85.3), Gibbs (84.7), Amida Brimah (81.3), Jalen Adams (85.7) and Omar Calhoun (80.6) all hit at least 80 percent of their attempts. Shonn Miller was at 79.5.

"We shoot a lot of them in practice," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "We go hard, I blow the whistle, make them run to the free throw line, and we do that throughout practice. ... So in the midst of that practice or running and sprints, you have to really calm yourself down. You've got to take the tension out and we really teach about routine. It's about falling in love with your routine."

Kansas next roadblock

Ollie gave an early scouting report on top-seeded Kansas (31-4), UConn's second-round opponent on Saturday.

"Great team," Ollie said. "They start inside-out. They're going to establish Perry Ellis inside and they're great in transition. They've got some shooters around them. So it's kind of like prepping for Colorado.

"... We have to do a great job on (Wayne) Seldon (Jr.) and get back and play transition defense and box out. They're a great rebounding team. But we've been in these brawls before and we'll be ready to fight."

Junior guard Svi Mykhailiuk led Kansas with 23 points while Ellis (21), junior Landen Lucas (16) and Seldon (14) also scored in double figures Thursday.

It will be the first meeting between UConn and Kansas in the postseason. The Huskies lost both regular season meetings, 73-65 in 1997 in Hartford and 88-59 in Kansas City in 1995.

Battle of the boards

What a difference a half makes.

After being outrebounded by five in the first half and allowing 10 second-chance points, the Huskies reversed the trend after halftime. They won the battle of the boards 21-13 and gave up just two second-chance points.

UConn held a 36-33 edge overall against a team ranked fourth in country in rebounds per game at 42.3.

"We hit more and boxed out and came up with the rebound," Hamilton said of the difference in the second half. "We started fast-breaking and getting easy transition layups. That was the main thing."

Hamilton led the Huskies with 10 rebounds and Brimah added seven.

News and notes

UConn scored 18 points off of 12 turnovers. ... UConn's Miller fouled out for the second time in the last four games. He played just 16 minutes, finishing with six points and four rebounds. "A couple I questioned a little bit, but a foul is a foul," Miller said. ... Ollie improved to 7-0 in NCAA tournament games as head coach. "It's a great feeling, but coaching is overrated," Ollie said. ... The Huskies are 18-2 in first-round games since 1990. ... UConn held the Pac-12 leader in 3-point shooting percentage (39.2) to just 2-for-10 from beyond the arc. ... Husky reserves outscored their counterparts 20-15 with Adams (nine) and Calhoun (five) leading the way. ...  UConn has won nine straight NCAA games on St. Patrick's Day, going 9-1 overall. ... It was the first time in Hamilton's career that he went without an assist. ... Providence transfer Josh Fortune had seven points and five turnovers. ... Future Husky Alterique Gilbert was recently named Georgia's Gatorade state player of the year.

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