UConn’s win cements its NCAA tourney spot, but West Virginia …

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Connecticut’s off to a familiar start in the Big East tournament. Came at the right time, too.

The Huskies outlasted West Virginia in a dramatic 71-67 win in Wednesday’s quarterfinals, saved by a series of clutch baskets by Shabazz Napier and some tough defense in OT. For a team that ran off five consecutive Big East tournament wins last season – many in equally thrilling fashion – it’s getting to be a habit.

Most importantly, the win bolstered the Huskies’ chances of returning to the NCAA tournament to defending their title. At 20-12 overall, UConn’s profile still isn’t a thing of beauty, but it’s probably enough to let them relax on Sunday even if it doesn’t win Thursday’s tourney game vs. Syracuse.

Not that Napier and Jeremy Lamb have any intention of letting the Huskies lose.

The pair combined for 48 points, sharing the scoring loads in each half. Lamb scored 14 of his 22 in the first half, while Napier was huge late, adding the bulk of his 26 points in the second half before fouling out in overtime.

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Also not to be overlooked? The defensive job done by UConn freshman Andre Drummond late in the game. He essentially took West Virginia star Kevin Jones out of the game thanks to some blanketing defense. Jones, who finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, didn’t make a basket in the game’s final 13 minutes, including OT.

Will West Virginia (19-13) be in the NCAAs? That’s up for debate. That’s doesn’t apply to UConn. Not anymore.

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