By Daly Dose of Hoops Contributor Jason Schott of BrooklynFans.com- @JESchott19
The UConn Huskies and Michigan State Spartans were the winners in the Sweet 16 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. They will meet in the Elite Eight on Sunday at 2:20 p.m. with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
UConn 81, Iowa State 76
UConn is in their first Elite Eight since 2011 when they won the national title, and the seventh time they have made it this far since 1999. The Huskies avenged a loss to Iowa State in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
UConn dominated this one early, maintaining a ten-point lead in the late stages of the first half and holding a 36-26 lead at halftime. They kept it up in the second half, and took a 17-point lead at 49-32 on a DeAndre Daniels three with 14:19 left before Iowa State made a late run and got as close as four in the final minutes.
UConn Head Coach Kevin Ollie said of the win, "First I just want to thank all the fans that came out and supported us. We can really hear them cheering for us, but then we could also feed off them. We can also draw off their energy. They just did a wonderful job. My student-athletes played together, they played hard, and at the end of the game, we played 40 (minutes) to get this win."
DeAndre Daniels had a big night for UConn, leading the way with 27 points on 10-for-15 from the field with 10 rebounds. Daniels got off to a slow start and then picked it up, and he said of that, "Well, I just wanted to stay aggressive and just start of the second half just keep staying aggressive. My teammates were talking to me, and it would never have been possible if it wasn't for my teammates looking for me, and coaching staff getting me the ball in the right positions. And I was able to knock down my shots tonight. And this postseason, just giving it my all, just for my teammates and UConn, and UConn Nation."
Shabazz Napier, who was on the Huskies' 2011 national championship team, had 19 points on 5-for-11 from the field and 4-6 from behind the arc, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Napier took over sole possession of second place in school history for career three-pointers, with his four 3-pointers giving him 250. Napier said of getting to the Elite Eight, "With every game you win, you realize the closer you are, but I said this since the beginning, since my freshman year, I'm the type of person that don't look towards the future too much. I don't want to miss out what's going on in front of me. I just want to take it game by game, day by day and that's what got us here so far."
Ryan Boatright had 16 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. Terrence Samuel had 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Perhaps the performance of the night was by Iowa State's Dustin Hogue, who had 34 points on 15-for-19 from the field and 6 rebounds. Hogue said of the experience, "It was definitely a beautiful experience for me. To go down the way we did, we still fought and having a chance to play in The Garden and the Sweet 16. I've come a long way in my basketball career to have this opportunity. And it's still special to me, even though it didn't end the way I wanted it to. I'm just happy to have the opportunity to play here."
Iowa State Head Coach Fred Hoiberg said, "Well, first of all, congratulations to Connecticut. They played a heck of a game tonight, and really came out and shot the ball well out of the gate. Had a very good game plan I thought defensively. They got us standing around a bit. Second half, I thought we were very aggressive and figured some things out. Got much better movement and went down swinging and that's exactly what I would expect out of this team."
Michigan State 61, Virginia 59
This game was a thriller that went right down to the wire. Michigan State held a four point lead at halftime, 31-27, and did not make a field goal in the first 6:41 of the second half. Virginia took advantage of this, and grabbed a 40-36 lead on a London Perrantes layup with 11:41 remaining. Michigan State responded with a 13-2 run to take a 49-42 lead with 6:15 left.
Virginia was not done, however, and Justin Anderson hit a three-pointer with 1:49 left to tie the game at 51.
Michigan State responded with a three from Adreian Payne and a dunk from Branden Dawson to make it 56-51. Those turned out to be the decisive points of the game as they never trailed the rest of the way.
Dawson led Michigan State with 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting and 10 rebounds. Payne had 16 points (5-12 FG, 2-5 on 3-pt) and 5 rebounds.
Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon each had 17 points to lead Virginia, but both had disappointing nights shooting, with Harris making just 6 of 14 attempts and Brogdon shot 4-for-14. Overall, Virginia was held to just 35.1 percent from the field, or 20-for-57.
Michigan State advanced to their first Elite Eight since 2010 and its 8th Elite Eight appearance since 1985. Head Coach Tom Izzo improved his record to 42-15 in the NCAA Tournament.
UConn leads the head-to-head matchup with the Spartans 3-2, and have won the last two meetings. They met in the 2009 National Semifinals, and Michigan State won that one, 82-73 before falling to North Carolina in the national championship game at Detroit's Ford Field two days later.