(BUFALLO, N.Y.) — Despite foul trouble in the first half, and an apparent leg injury in the second, Shabazz Napier scored 25 points in leading No. 7 Connecticut to a 77-65 win over two-seed Villanova in the East Region. The Huskies (28-8) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since their National Championship run in 2011.
Napier poured in 21 points in the second half, playing just eight minutes in the first due to foul trouble. Villanova (29-5) trailed by one at halftime before Ryan Arcidiacano buried a three to begin the second and give the Wildcats a slim advantage. Both teams traded leads over the next five minutes before poor shooting doomed Villanova.
After James Bell hit a three to bring the Wildcats within three a 42-39, UCONN connected on three straight shots from beyond the arc, the last two from Napier. Villanova again cut the lead to six before Napier drained a near 40-foot shot that put the icing on the cake for Connecticut. The American Athletic Conference Player of the Year exited the game with a right shin injury at the four minute mark, but returned forty seconds later and added a circus shot to his day, putting the Huskies ahead 60-51.
Five total players scored in double figures for UCONN, who is back in the tournament one season after being barred from postseason play for academic sanctions. Arcidiacano scored a team high 18 points for Villanova in the loss. The Huskies now await the third-seeded Iowa State and No. 6 North Carolina.
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Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com