Shabazz Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half and helped close it out at the line as the Huskies knocked off the Spartans in the East regional final of the NCAA tournament in New York.
DeAndre Daniels collected 12 points and eight rebounds for No. 7 seed Connecticut (30-8), which will take on top overall seed Florida in the Final Four next weekend. Ryan Boatright scored 11 points for the Huskies, who are aiming for their second NCAA championship in the last four years.
Gary Harris scored 22 points to lead No. 4 seed Michigan State (29-9). Adreian Payne recorded 13 points and nine boards for the Spartans but became part of the first senior class in coach Tom Izzo’s tenure not to reach the Final Four during his career.
Daniels’ three-point play capped a 12-0 run and gave Connecticut a 35-32 lead with just under 12 minutes to play, and the advantage stretched to 49-39 on Boatright’s 3-pointer with 6 1/2 minutes left. Denzel Valentine and Harris responded with back-to-back 3-pointers and Michigan State drew within 53-51 on Payne’s free throws with 57 seconds left, but Napier was fouled on a 3-pointer attempt at the other end and hit all three free throws to help put it away.
The Huskies got off to a hot start and held a 10-point lead five minutes into the game before the Spartans fought back, grabbing their first lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Harris to kick off a 16-2 run that bridged the half and left Michigan State up 32-23. The Spartans went nearly seven minutes without a field goal as Connecticut battled back to retake the lead.
GAME NOTEBOOK: The Huskies are the last team to defeat Florida, 65-64 on Napier’s last-second shot Dec. 2. … Payne was forced to the outside by Connecticut’s defense and ended up shooting 3-of-10 from 3-point range. … The Huskies went 21-of-22 from the free-throw line, including 5-of-5 in the final 30 seconds, and were 41-for-44 in the two games at Madison Square Garden.