BUFFALO, N.Y. – Guard Shabazz Napier scored nine of his team-high 24 points in overtime as No. 7-seeded Connecticut outlasted No. 10 seed St. Joseph’s 89-81 Thursday night in an East Region NCAA Tournament second-round game at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
The Huskies (27-8) advanced to the third round, where they will meet the winner of No. 2 Villanova and No. 15 Milwaukee on Saturday in Buffalo.
UConn made 15 of its 16 free throws in overtime to topple the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament champion Hawks (24-10).
Napier, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, had only five points at the half on 2-for-8 shooting. But he had 19 after halftime to finish with 24, and he added eight rebounds and six assists. Forward DeAndre Daniels added 18 points for the Huskies.
Daniels completed a three-point play to open the scoring in overtime. St. Joe’s guard Langston Galloway, who botched the Hawks’ final possession in regulation, made up for it with a 3-pointer to tie the score at 73.
Huskies backup center Amida Brimah and Napier each sank a pair of free throws to make it 77-73, and Napier’s three-point play gave UConn an 80-73 lead.
The Hawks trailed 57-56 with 7 1/2 minutes left in regulation before forward Halil Kanacevic scored six consecutive points on a dunk, two free throws and an inside basket in traffic. But UConn guard Ryan Boatright followed Kanacevic’s flurry with a 3-pointer that kept the Huskies close.
UConn’s Brimah followed Napier’s missed layup with a rebound and basket with 39 seconds remaining in regulation. Brimah was fouled and made the free throw to tie the score at 70.
Galloway then brought the ball up the court and almost turned it over before taking a wild, off-balance shot after the shot clock expired with 1.9 seconds left in regulation. After the shot-clock violation, Napier had a chance to win the game at the buzzer, but his shot from on the 3-point line clanked off the rim, sending the game into overtime.
Galloway (25 points) and forwards DeAndre Bembry (16), Ronald Roberts Jr. (15), DeAndre Bembry and Kanacevic (13) combined for 69 points for the Hawks.
UConn scored the first four points of the second half to pull within one, 40-39. But the Hawks ended a 6 1/2-minute field-goal drought on Galloway’s 3-pointer and built their lead back to seven, 46-39. Paced by back-to-back 3-pointers by forward Niels Giffey and Napier, UConn once again sliced St. Joe’s lead to one, 46-45.
The Huskies finally pulled ahead 55-53 on Napier’s 3-point play with just over nine minutes remaining. But the Hawks answered on Bembry’s game-tying basket while he was draped by three UConn defenders.
St. Joseph’s led 40-35 at halftime. Trailing 14-12 after Napier’s 3-pointer, the Hawks went on a 13-4 spurt to take a 25-18 lead. Galloway sank back-to-back 3-pointers to ignite that run.
The Hawks bumped their lead to 10, 37-27, but UConn closed the first half on an 8-3 run. Boatright, who led UConn with eight first-half points, pulled the Huskies within five with a 3-pointer from the corner with eight seconds remaining in the half.
Galloway (12 points), Bembry (11) and Roberts (10) combined for 33 of St. Joe’s 40 first-half points as the Hawks shot 56 percent from the floor (14-for-25).
UConn entered the game with nine wins in its last 12 games, with two of those losses coming against defending national champion Louisville, a team that played as well as any team down the stretch.
Saint Joseph’s entered the Atlantic 10 tournament on the NCAA bubble but erased all doubt with its first conference tournament title in 17 years. The Hawks bounced back from two regular-season-ending losses to edge Dayton in the A-10 quarterfinals and rout St. Bonaventure in the semis before squeaking past 23rd-ranked Virginia Commonwealth, 65-61, in Sunday’s title game.
NOTES: UConn is 33-8 in its last 11 NCAA tournament appearances, including national title runs in 1999, 2004 and 2008, and 30-5 in the first two rounds in its last 18 tournament appearances. . . . St. Joseph’s made its first tournament appearance since 2008 and hasn’t won a tournament game since 2004. . . . UConn last visited Buffalo for the NCAA tournament in 2004 as
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