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Game report: UConn beats Villanova, advances to Sweet 16

Updated 1:04 am, Sunday, March 23, 2014

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  • Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston (22) shoots over Connecticut's Amida Brimah (35)  during the first half of a third-round game in the NCAA men's college  basketball tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP  Photo/Bill Wippert)

    Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston (22) shoots over Connecticut's Amida Brimah (35) during the first half of a third-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

 

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- He sat more than 12 minutes with foul trouble while his teammates held the fort -- and even took the lead.

Shabazz Napier then arrived in the second half to carry No. 7 UConn to the Sweet 16 with 21 of his 25 points in a 77-65 win over No. 2 Villanova in front of 19, 209 fans Saturday night in NCAA tournament third-round play at the First Niagara Center.

UConn (28-8) advances to New York City where it will play the winner of No. 8 North Carolina-No. 3 Iowa State on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

Five Huskies finished in double figures with Lasan Kromah having 12, while Ryan Boatright, Terrence Samuel and DeAndre Daniels each added 11. UConn was 22-for-28 on free-throws, including 20-for-24 in the second half.

Villanova, which was 11-for-31 on 3-pointers, ends the season at 29-5.

In addition to driving UConn home, Napier added some second-half drama when he left the game with a right leg injury that left him crumpled on the floor. Napier appeared to bump into a Villanova defender trying to get free and then fell down at the other end of the floor with 4:01 left. He would return less than a minute later and finished the game.

He had a right shin injury that was wrapped after the game.

A well-rested Napier knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give UConn its largest lead of the game at that point, 51-40, with 8:59 to play. The Huskies never lost it.

Despite having Napier on the bench for the final 12:09 with two fouls, the Huskies more than held their own in the first half. They led by a point, 25-24.

After Napier sat, the Huskies answered with a 16-4 run using six players: Boatright, Samuel, Kromah, Niels Giffey, Amida Brimah, and later Daniels.

The Wildcats put UConn in a 7-0 hole right away, picking up five points as the result of Phillip Nolan's Flagrant 1 foul that resulted in two free throws by Daniel Ochefu and then Ryan Arcidiacono's 3-pointer.

The lead would grow to 19-9, with 11:33 left, after Darrun Hilliard hit a 3-pointer. However, the Wildcats made just one foul shot over the next 11 minutes -- missing 10 straight field goals and committing five turnovers -- as UConn's offensive-limited lineup charged back.

Samuel made two foul shots and then a jumper. After Boatright missed two foul shots, Daniels canned a 3-pointer. Kromah drove for a layup and Boatright drove for a layup, tying it at 20 with 4:24 left.

A 3-pointer from Kromah, who has struggled on offense late in the season, gave UConn its first lead at 23-20 with 3:02 left. Giffey pushed it to 25-20 with a layup.

A second Flagrant 1 foul of the half helped Villanova end UConn's string of 14 straight points. JayVaughn Pinkston, who got taken down by Samuel attempting a shot, made the second of two foul shots, and on the ensuing possession, Arcidiacono knocked down another 3.

UConn finished shooting 34.5 percent (10-for-29) in the half, while Villanova was at 30.4 percent (7-for-23).

STAR OF THE GAME: Napier. Superman put on his cape in the second half, but once again his teammates were a huge contributor in the win.

KEYS TO WIN: The Huskies not only played well without Napier in the lineup, but they took the lead in the first half. Samuel had a solid night filling in for Napier and the Huskies' defense packed in the paint, forcing 'Nova to attack outside. UConn also outrebounded the Wildcats, something it could not do last year at the XL Center.

WORTH NOTING: The series between the Huskies and Wildcats dates back to the 1940-41 season. Villanova holds a 31-28 record against UConn. ... Omar Calhoun has not scored a point in 11 games and only had 15 points in The American play this season. Calhoun was UConn's leading scorer in last year's 70-61 loss to Villanova with 16 points. ... UConn played in its seventh 9 p.m. or later start of the season. The Huskies started 0-3 in those games, but came in having won three straight.

QUOTABLE: "Great game for our guys. It was a gutty win and we're going to the Garden." -- UConn coach Kevin Ollie

UP NEXT: NCAA Tournament in New York, Friday vs. UNC-Iowa State, TBA.

-- WILLIAM S. PAXTON