Rushed Reactions: #7 Connecticut 81, #3 Iowa State 76Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 28th, 2014
Brian Otskey is RTC’s NCAA East Regional correspondent.
Three key takeaways.
- Defense and length. Connecticut set the tone for this game from the opening tip. The Huskies, who sport three players 6’9” or taller, clearly bothered the smaller Cyclones all game long. Iowa State had tremendous difficulty getting anything to fall around the rim, where it shot 7-for-23 (30.4 percent) in the first half. Kevin Ollie’s team made a concerted effort to limit DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim and it did just that. Iowa State’s usually dynamic duo combined for only 23 points on 9-for-31 shooting. Dustin Hogue had a terrific night but it was not nearly enough for Fred Hoiberg’s team to advance. Combating Connecticut’s efficient and stingy defense was a concern coming in for the Cyclones and it proved to be among the deciding factors in the outcome of the game.
- DeAndre Daniels was the difference maker. Nobody ever questioned Daniels’ talent, it was just a matter of his consistency (or lack there-of). On this night, Daniels decided he was going to be the game changer. The junior forward poured in 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in perhaps his best overall game of the season. Daniels and his large, wiry frame played a major role in clogging up the middle where Iowa State could not get anything going.
- Connecticut won the game at the three point line. For the game, the Huskies shot 47.4 percent from beyond the arc but it was the major difference in the first half and allowed them to build their lead. Connecticut shot the three ball at a scalding 58.3 percent in the first half en route to building a 10-point lead at the break. Iowa State’s three point defense (ranked No. 9 in Big 12 play) had to be a concern for Hoiberg coming into the game and it proved to be the case. Connecticut has been one of the nation’s best three-point shooting teams all year long and showed it tonight in front of a relatively local crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Star of the Game: DeAndre Daniels, Connecticut. Daniels recorded his fourth double-double of the season in the Huskies’ victor, in addition to blocking a pair of shots and making life in the paint miserable for the Cyclones. His length and athleticism was a gigantic difference in the game and the Huskies will need more of that if they want to advance to the Final Four. Michigan State and Virginia, especially, are much stronger defensive teams than the Cyclones.
- “We got down 16 and we kept fighting in the second half.” – Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane on his team’s resiliency.
- “I thought we just got really stagnant.” – Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg on his team’s slow first half start.
- “It just felt like a home game.” – Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier on the Garden crowd.
- “He got super hot. We had to cool his hand down.” – Napier, on DeAndre Daniels.
- “I love him being around. He’s always a sounding board for me.” – Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie on the presence of Jim Calhoun around the program.
- “At the end of the day you can always be a great teammate. That’s what he’s continued to do.” – Ollie on Daniels.
Sights and Sounds: Madison Square Garden was relatively full for its first NCAA tournament game since 1961 but the atmosphere was definitely below expectations. There were lots of empty seats in the Virginia section as those folks took their time in arriving. Iowa State’s contingent was noticeable while Connecticut clearly had the most fans in the building. A relatively uncompetitive game may have played a role in dampening the atmosphere, though. It was mentioned on Twitter throughout the night but it really is true how the way the NCAA sets up these arenas takes away from the unique settings and layout. It really is a shame that the NCAA has to be so generic and that definitely took something away from the atmosphere at MSG for this one.
What’s Next: With the win, the Huskies advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since their national championship season of 2011. Connecticut will be back at the Garden on Sunday to face the winner of tonight’s Virginia-Michigan State game.