(NEW YORK) — In 2012, the Connecticut Huskies lost in the BIG EAST quarterfinals to Syracuse at Madison Square Garden. In 2013, UCONN was ineligible for postseason play, their final year before jumping conferences. On Friday, they returned to their “home away from home” in the Sweet 16, knocking off third-seeded Iowa State, 81-76.
“It just felt like a home game,” said senior guard Shabazz Napier. “When you have that crowd behind you, pushing you, good things will happen.”
Napier had 19 points including four 3-pointers in the first half to help Connecticut (29-8), the seven seed, build up a double-digit halftime lead. In the second half, it was DeAndre Daniels’ turn to extend the advantage. Daniels hit his first six shots of the half and helped put the Huskies up as many as 17 en route to the win.
The Cyclones (28-8), cut the deficit down to four on a Naz Long three with 2:24 to play, but could not find enough points to mount the comeback. Dustin Hogue finished with a game high 34 points in the loss.
Daniels, who ended the game with a double-double (27 points and 10 rebounds), made four straight free throws in the final 14 seconds to secure the win.
“With our seniors on this team, I just want them to go out with a bang,” the junior said.
Those seniors, including Napier, were freshman the last time UCONN went this deep into the tournament. In 2011, the Huskies won both the BIG EAST and NCAA Tournament before being banned from postseason play for poor academic performance in 2013. Now they will face 4th-seeded Michigan Sate on Sunday in the Elite Eight.
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Jill Martin, CNN