BUFFALO, N.Y. — Guard Shabazz Napier scored nine of his team-high 24 points in overtime as seventh-seeded Connecticut outlasted 10th-seeded Saint Joseph’s 89-81 on Thursday night in an NCAA East Regional second-round game at the First Niagara Center.
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.
UConn made 15 of 16 free throws in overtime to topple the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament champion Hawks (24-10).
“We played with grit,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “It took a little longer than I thought, but fortunately we got it done.”
Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said, “We did exactly what we wanted to do. They had 67 points at the end of regulation, and they had taken four foul shots.”
Napier, the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year, had only five points at the half on 2-for-8 shooting from the field. But he scored 19 after halftime to finish with 24. He added eight rebounds and six assists.
“The first half went by so fast,” said Napier, a 6-foot-1 senior who entered averaging 17.4 points per game. “When I was in the locker room, I told myself I had to do something because my teammates need it and it might be my last game.”
UConn forward DeAndre Daniels, who had 18 points, completed a three-point play to open the scoring in overtime. 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 two 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.
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.
“I wanted to go out with the ball in my hands,” said Langston, a senior and one of Saint Joseph’s career scoring leaders with more than 2,000 points. “I’m definitely upset at myself for not getting a better quality shot because I know if I had gotten a better quality shot, I probably would have made it.”
“If they said rewind, I’d do that (play) again and give him the ball again,” Martelli said about putting the ball in Galloway’s hands at the end of regulation.
Galloway (25 points) and forwards DeAndre Bembry (16) and Ronald Roberts Jr. (15) combined for 56 points for the Hawks. Martelli removed Galloway in the closing seconds of overtime, when the game was out of hand, so he could get an ovation from the Hawks’ fans. Galloway also received a hug from Napier.
“I’m passionate for the game and I could see in their eyes that they’re the same way,” Napier said. “If it was me, I’d love for them to do the same thing for me.”
UConn scored the first four points of the second half to pull within one at 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 at 46-39. Paced by back-to-back 3-pointers by forward Niels Giffey and Napier, UConn once again sliced Saint Joe’s lead to one at 46-45.
The Huskies pulled ahead 55-53 on Napier’s 3-point play with just over nine minutes remaining. But the Hawks answered on Bembry’s tying basket in the paint while he was draped by three UConn defenders.
Saint Joseph’s led 40-35 at halftime. Trailing 14-12 after
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