UConn shot only 34.7 percent from the floor in its Elite Eight battle with Michigan State on Sunday, but in the end the Huskies had the best weapon on the court. It was enough to make Kevin Ollie's team the third squad to claim a spot in the 2014 Final Four.
Shabazz Napier scored 25 points to lead the Huskies past Michigan State, 60-54, at Madison Square Garden.
The last time the Huskies were in the Final Four, Napier was playing behind Kemba Walker. Now, the senior leads his Huskies team into Texas, where they will face the No. 1 seed Florida Gators.
Five minutes into the game, UConn led 12-2. With five minutes left in the half, the lead was down to five points.
A trio of threes by Spartans Gary Harris and Denzel Valentine helped Michigan State to a 9-0 run to end the half, and the MSU defense held the Huskies to 3-for-21 in the last 15 minutes of the first half. Four minutes into the second half, the Spartans looked ready to break the game open, leading 32-23 before UConn went on a 26-7 run that gave the Huskies a 10-point lead with just more than six minutes to play.
Two threes by Michigan State sparked a rally, but it was too late.
The Spartans shot 39 percent themselves, launched 29 threes in 46 total attempts, and only got to the foul line eight times. On the other end, UConn got to the line 22 times, making all but one of those free throw attempts.
The issue for Michigan State today has been an inability to get much done in the paint pic.twitter.com/hFcyA2RAeo— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
And when UConn needed a shot, Napier provided, hitting four threes, including a deep pull-up toward the end of the Huskies' second-half push.
With 30 seconds left, the threat of Napier drilling a three-pointer was so great that Spartans point guard Keith Appling contested a similar attempt atop the arc, but a foul on the follow-through led to Appling fouling out and turned a 53-51 UConn lead into a two-possession game.
Tom Izzo's team got 22 points from Harris and 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists from forward Adreian Payne, but MSU's second-half struggles became too much to overcome.