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The other DeAndre (Daniels) steals the show as No. 7 UConn beats No. 3 Iowa State

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NEW YORK — When you think of UConn, you think of Shabazz Napier.

That’s what happens when you’re the star point guard, the first-team all-american for a program known for churning out first-team all-americans. That’s not unexpected when you play the same position — and spark a similar postseason run — as Kemba Walker, the most popular UConn Husky of the last decade.

And Shabazz did was Shabazz is wont to do on Friday night. He hit four threes in the first 10 minutes of the first game at Madison Square Garden since 1961, sparking a first half run that gave the Huskies control early in a game was was never much in doubt in the second half. No. 7 seed UConn advanced with a 81-76 win over No. 3 Iowa State.

But that wasn’t the difference in this game.

DeAndre was, only it wasn’t the DeAndre we thought.

MORE: In the end, the loss of Georges Niang was too much to overcome

DeAndre Daniels, UConn’s enigmatic junior forward, scored 27 points, including 13 of UConn’s first 15 in the second half, and added ten boards and two blocks. He hit threes. He was beating Iowa State defenders off the dribble. He was the screener in UConn’s pick-and-roll action. And that’s before you factor in that he played a major roll in keeping Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim in check. He finished with just seven points and was 3-for-13 from the floor, although two of those field goals came in the final 30 seconds with the outcome already decided. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State’s star point guard and the hero of the Round of 32, had 16 points, nine assists and eight boards, but was just 6-for-18 from the floor.

“Deandre was kind of pressing [early],” Napier said. “He wanted to make a big impact, and I just told him, ‘Calm down, it’ll come to you’. Once he got the first one, we kept feeding him.”

“He got super hot, we had to cool his hand down.”

Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg agreed. “He was unbelievable tonight,” he said.

It wasn’t just Daniels that stepped up for the Huskies, either. Ryan Boatright scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half and added a pair of assists as well, one of which led to the biggest shot of the game. Iowa State had just cut the UConn lead to 67-63, the closest that the Cyclones had been since midway through the first half, when Boatright got into the paint and found Niels Giffey wide open in the corner.

Giffey buried the three, giving the Huskies a seven-point lead with less than two minutes left, and from that point forward all the Huskies needed to do was hit free throws to seal up the win.

They did.

And they’ll advance to the Elite 8 to play the winner of No. 1 Virginia and No. 4 Michigan State on Sunday evening at the Garden.

It’s a game they have a real chance to win, regardless of the opponent, if they can get this kind of an effort from Napier’s supporting cast. Napier can control a game as well as anyone in the country. I know that and you know that, which means that every coach in the country knows it as well. That also means that every game-plan will be built around trying to keep Napier in check. Iowa State didn’t do too bad, either.

Napier finished with 19 points, five boards and five assists, but he was just 5-for-11 from the floor and hit just a single field goal in the final 30 minutes while committing five turnovers.

“I’m the type of person that don’t look to the future to much,” Napier said. “I just look at what’s in front of me.”

And what’s in front of him now is a chance to play in the Final Four.

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”