NEW YORK - DeAndre Daniels' UConn teammates were going to keep passing him the ball until he cooled off.
By the time that happened, it was too late for Iowa State.
Daniels scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, and the Huskies hung on for an 81-76 victory Friday to reach the East Regional final a year after UConn was barred from the NCAA tournament.
Dustin Hogue reacts to Iowa State’s 81-76 loss to Connecticut in the regional semifinal of the NCAA tournament Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Hogue, a Yonkers, NY, native, had a career-high 34 points but the third-seeded Cyclones were eliminated by seventh-seeded UConn, 81-76.
"DeAndre's a scorer, and once you feel that you have that confidence, the next shot's going to go in," said senior Shabazz Napier, who knows a thing or two about scoring himself. "We kept feeding him, and he got super hot."
Daniels hit his first six shots after halftime, the only Husky to make a field goal for over 8 1/2 minutes. His 3-pointer gave seventh-seeded UConn a 49-32 lead.
The third-seeded Cyclones rallied late, pulling within 67-63 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. But senior Niels Giffey hit a 3 in the corner for his first points since the game's opening moments, and when the Huskies (29-8) made their free throws in the final minute, the UConn fans packing Madison Square Garden could celebrate.
CONNECTICUT 81, IOWA ST. 76
UCONN (29-8) - Nolan 0-0 0-0 0, Daniels 10-15 5-6 27, Giffey 2-5 0-0 5, Boatright 4-10 6-6 16, Napier 5-11 5-6 19, Samuel 3-4 4-4 10, Kromah 0-2 0-0 0, Calhoun 0-0 0-0 0, Tolksdorf 0-0 0-0 0, Watts 0-0 0-0 0, Brimah 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 26-50 20-22 81.
IOWA ST. (28-8) - Ejim 3-13 0-0 7, Morris 5-8 0-0 12, Hogue 15-19 4-6 34, Edozie 0-0 0-0 0, Kane 6-18 2-9 16, Long 3-9 0-0 7, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Gibson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-69 6-15 76.
Halftime-UConn 36-26. 3-Point Goals-UConn 9-19 (Napier 4-6, Boatright 2-3, Daniels 2-6, Giffey 1-3, Kromah 0-1), Iowa St. 6-16 (Morris 2-2, Kane 2-4, Ejim 1-2, Long 1-6, Thomas 0-1, Hogue 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-UConn 31 (Daniels 10), Iowa St. 36 (Ejim, Kane 8). Assists-UConn 9 (Napier 5), Iowa St. 14 (Kane 9). Total Fouls-UConn 15, Iowa St. 17.
The Huskies will face fourth-seeded Michigan State on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four after the Spartans beat top-seeded Virginia 61-59 in the late game.
Dustin Hogue scored a career-high 34 points for Iowa State (28-8), but Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim was 3 of 13 for seven points, more than 11 below his average.
The Cyclones, in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000, were playing their second game without third-leading scorer Georges Niang, who broke his foot in their tournament opener.
They trailed by 16 with less than 7 1/2 minutes to go but nearly came all the way back behind Hogue's scoring inside.
"That's who these guys are, they're fighters," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "Great chemistry all season long, and to lose a guy like Georges Niang and still go out and beat a North Carolina and have an opportunity after being down 17 tells you everything you need to know about this group of guys."
With UConn clinging to a 70-65 lead and less than a minute left, Iowa State's Naz Long missed a 3-pointer, and the 6-foot-1 Napier pulled down the rebound and was fouled by Hogue. The guard calmly drilled both free throws.
UConn was 20 of 22 from the foul line, while Iowa State was 6 of 15.
Napier, the American Athletic Conference player of the year, drained four early 3-pointers, then made only one more field goal the rest of the way. But the quick start by Napier and backcourt mate Ryan Boatright opened up space for the 6-9 Daniels, an inconsistent junior who can score all over the court when he's on.
Since a stretch in late February and early March when he failed to reach double figures in four straight games, Daniels had averaged 15 in his last six outings before Friday. Then against Iowa State, he shot 10 of 15 and pulled down 10 rebounds.
"With our seniors on this team, I just want them to go out with a bang," Daniels said.
Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Iowa State's top scorers, were a combined 9 of 31. But Hogue, from nearby Yonkers, found plenty of space, shooting 15 for 19.
"To play in the Garden, it's something I dreamed about as a kid," he said.
After Napier's difficult early 3-pointers - he was falling away on two of them and stepping back to open a sliver of space on a third - Boatright and Daniels took over. The three combined for all but six of the Huskies' points as they built a 36-26 halftime lead.
Iowa State shot just 31 percent in the first half, missing some good looks but also standing around too much on offense.
"Unfortunately in the game of basketball you have nights where that basket looks that big," Hoiberg said, holding his hands far apart, "and sometimes it looks like a little thimble. And unfortunately a few of our guys had that type of night tonight."
Second-year coach Kevin Ollie is now 3-0 in the NCAA tournament after taking over for mentor Jim Calhoun, who gave him a big hug after this one was over. The last time UConn made it this far, the Huskies won a national title when Napier and Giffey were freshmen.
The current upperclassmen could have transferred after the program's low scores on the NCAA's academic progress measure kept UConn from last year's Big East and NCAA tournaments.
"We were banned from a lot of things," Ollie said. "We couldn't come here for the tournament, but they weren't banned from loving and pushing and encouraging each other, and that's what it's all about. Those dark times, if you don't give up in the dark times, it will reverse, the wind will start going in your favor, your direction.
"And I think that's what's happened now."