By John Vogl
How Connecticut won: The Huskies won the same way they usually do, with a huge helping of Shabazz Napier. The American Athletic Conference Player of the Year poured in a game-high 25 points, including 21 in the second half. The senior refused to end his career short of the Sweet 16.
Turning point: Villanova pulled within three points, 42-39, on a three-pointer by James Bell. UConn showed it wouldn’t fold as Lasan Kromah hit a three and Napier followed with back-to-back bombs for a 9-1 run. It gave the Huskies breathing room at 51-40 with 8:59 to go.
Player of the game: If you can’t tell by now … of course it was Napier. The senior hobbled to the bench with a leg injury with 4:01 to go. Villanova became emboldened while looking at Napier with a towel on his face, but he wasn’t gone long enough for the Wildcats to take advantage. He returned 40 seconds later, and so did UConn’s swagger.
Stat of the game: Villanova had a decent night from three-point land in going 11 for 31. From inside the arc, however, Villanova was just 7 for 20. Shooting 35.3 percent overall simply won’t cut it.
He Said It: “They showed resiliency. They showed toughness. Everybody was strong, and we’re going to the Garden.” – UConn coach Kevin Ollie, whose team trailed by 10 points early.
Up next: UConn plays in the Sweet 16 in New York City against the winner of today’s matchup between No. 3 seed Iowa State and sixth-seeded North Carolina.