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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.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.