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Shabazz Napier carries No. 7 UConn into the Sweet 16

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Shabazz Napier has already earned a permanent place in the hearts of UConn fans, but he took a major step in the pursuit of his Kemba Walker moment on Saturday night.

With the No. 7 seed Huskies locked in a battle with No. 2 Villanova, a former Big East rival, Napier buried three straight ridiculous three to extend the UConn lead to as much as 11 points in a 77-65 upset that didn’t really feel all that much like an upset.

In total, Napier scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half despite the fact that: A) he played just eight first half minutes thanks to foul trouble, B) he rolled his left ankle on a jump shot in the first half and C) he suffered some kind of shin injury in the second half that left him writhing in pain and with a bag of ice on his leg before the final buzzer had sounded.

It was just another in a long line of dominant, clutch performances from UConn’s leader this season, far too many to list here.

But here’s the better news: UConn caught a break when they were placed in the East Region. The Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 will be played Madison Square Garden, and as any fan of the Big East will tell you, when UConn plays at the Garden, the Garden is packed. It may not be a home game, per se, but with the winner of No. 3 Iowa State — who will be without Georges Niang — and No. 6 North Carolina up next, there’s no reason to believe that the Huskies can’t pull off a run.

Particularly if they get this kind of play out of Napier.

Here’s the irony, however.

As good as Napier was, the most important part of this game was the play that UConn got off the bench from the likes of Lasan Kromah and Terrence Samuel. Think about it like this: Napier played eight minutes in the first half. Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels finished the night a combined 7-for-22 from the floor. If it wasn’t for Kroman and Samuel combining for 23 points off the bench, the Huskies would not have led at halftime and they would not be heading to the Garden.

But they did, and they are.


PHOTO: N.C. State’s bus breaks down on way to game

SYRACUSE, NY - MARCH 27:  Head coach Mark Gottfried of the North Carolina State Wolfpack reacts to their loss to the Louisville Cardinals during the East Regional Semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Carrier Dome on March 27, 2015 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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N.C. State, whose season has been something of a disaster to date, face a must-win game against Wake Forest in Raleigh on Saturday afternoon, and since nothing can be easy for Mark Gottfried’s club, they’ll have to find a way to win the game after their bus broke down en route to PNC Arena:

This is why you can’t have nice things, N.C. State.

WATCH LIVE: Atlantic 10 basketball doubleheader Saturday on NBCSN

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: A detailed view of a Spalding basketball during a quarterfinal game between the Davidson Wildcats and La Salle Explorers in the 2015 Men's Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 13, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
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The Atlantic 10 invades NBCSN and the NBC Sports app on Saturday with two games that will air as part of a doubleheader.

It starts with Fordham at UMass at 12:30 p.m. and concludes with Rhode Island heading to Duquesne at 2:30 p.m.

CLICK HERE to watch the Atlantic 10 on NBCSN

VIDEO: North Carolina ball boy makes three straight halfcourt shots

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During North Carolina’s blowout win over N.C. State on Jan. 8, the Tar Heels weren’t the only ones in the building who were feeling it.

As it turns out, North Carolina ball boy Asher Lucas was the hottest shooter of anyone in the building that night.

During halftime of that Jan. 8 game, Lucas nailed three consecutive halfcourt shots, as his father, Adam Lucas, a North Carolina columnist, released the video this week to YouTube. The video quickly went viral as Asher’s unreal streak of shots was all over TV and the Internet.

The Tar Heels have been struggling to find consistent perimeter shooting for the last few seasons, so maybe they need to start scouting Asher for a future roster spot.


VIDEO: Milwaukee wins on Brock Stull buzzer-beater

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Milwaukee picked up a Horizon League win on Friday night as guard Brock Stull knocked in a buzzer-beater to topple Cleveland State.

Stull only had four points on the night as he played 30 minutes and finished with five assists and six rebounds.

Oregon’s Dillon Brooks is ‘in a walking boot’, status still unclear

EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 11: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks shoots the ball over Ar'Mond Davis #22 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half of the game at Matthew Knight Arena on December 11, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Oregon released a statement on Friday afternoon that said star forward Dillon Brooks had seen doctors and was in a walking boot, but gave no further update on his condition.

Brooks suffered what the program termed a “lower leg injury” on Thursday night against Cal. The injury was to his left leg – on replay, it looked like he rolled his ankle – which is concerning because his left foot is the foot that he injured over the summer, which caused him to miss the first three games of the season.

“He’ll be evaluated in the next couple of days and see where he’s at,” head coach Dana Altman said after Thursday’s game.