NEW YORK – DeAndre Daniels’ Connecticut teammates were going to keep passing him the ball until he cooled off.
By the time that happened, it was too late for Iowa State.
Daniels scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, and the Huskies hung on for an 81-76 victory Friday to reach the East Regional final a year after UConn was barred from the NCAA tournament.
“DeAndre’s a scorer, and once you feel that you have that confidence, the next shot’s going to go in,” said senior Shabazz Napier. “We kept feeding him, and he got super hot.”
Daniels hit his first six shots after halftime, the only Husky to make a field goal in a span of 8 1/2 minutes. His 3-pointer gave seventh-seeded UConn a 49-32 lead.
The third-seeded Cyclones rallied late, pulling within 67-63 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. But UConn senior Niels Giffey hit a 3 in the corner for his first points since the game’s opening moments, and when the Huskies (29-8) made their free throws in the final minute, the UConn fans packing Madison Square Garden were free to celebrate.
The Huskies will face fourth-seeded Michigan State on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
Dustin Hogue scored a career-high 34 points for Iowa State (28-8), but Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim was 3 of 13 for seven points, more than 11 below his average.
The Cyclones, in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000, were playing their second game without third-leading scorer Georges Niang, who broke his foot in their tournament opener.
They trailed by 16 with less than 7 1/2 minutes to go but nearly came back behind Hogue’s scoring.
Second-year coach Kevin Ollie is now 3-0 in the NCAA tournament.