UConn outlasts Michigan State, marches to first Final Four under Ollie

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

NEW YORK–The Jim Calhoun era is over. The Big East is gone.

And the Huskies are just fine.

Shabazz Napier drew a game-changing foul on a three pointer with 30.6 seconds left, then drained all three free throws to seal UConn’s 60-54 win over Michigan State, and the Huskies’ first Final Four bid under Kevin Ollie.

It was a vintage Connecticut performance, as they defended, ran and shot their way to victory. The Huskies (30-8) rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to become the first No. 7 seed to reach the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Napier did his best Kemba Walker impression, leading the way with 25 points. His jumper from the right wing put the Huskies up 53-49 with 1:24 left.

DeAndre Daniels added 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.

Ryan Boatright looked as intense and aggressive as he’s been all year long, coming up with 11 points and 4 steals. His theft of Brandon Dawson and full-court sprint to the basket put the Huskies up 44-39 with 8:13 left.

UConn used an 11-0 run to take a 49-39 lead with 6:15 to go.

Gary Harris led Michigan State with 22 points.

“We got what we deserved today,” said Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.

“It’s tough. The season is over,” Harris said. “I’m still in shock about the loss.”

Harris said he thought Napier’s performance was the difference.

“His will to win. You can just see it. He wasn’t going to let his team lose. He made the big plays down the stretch. You can just see playing against him, he’s a winner.”

Izzo said he was impressed with the way Ollie made adjustments and approached the game.

“I like what Kevin did. He learned from Jim. His teams play the same way,” Izzo said. “I’m just really impressed and happy for him.”

“It was a great gameplan our players executed it perfectly “We wanted to fight, and throw the first punch, and we did that.”

This weekend’s regional semis and final were the first NCAA Tournament games played at Madison Square Garden since 1961. UConn fans filled the seats, making the regionals feel like a homestand for the Huskies.

“It’s kind of unfair, we come here and we put a lot of fans in the seats here. It’s like our third home,” Napier said. “It’s a special feeling to create our history and win games here.”

“For the NCAA not to be here 50 years and we come out and we win it, it just puts a great bow on this gift,” Ollie said.

UConn will take on Florida in the National Semifinals on April 5.

“I told coach [Calhoun], thank you for believing in me,” Ollie said.

“We got our American flag waving out the window heading down to Texas,” Ollie said. “We’re going to represent our conference.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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