Jim Calhoun was right. With No. 7 UConn trailing No. 2 Villanova by seven midway through the first half, CBS Sports sideline reporter Allie LaForce found the Hall of Fame coach in the stands where he pointed out that the Huskies were about to make a run. He said it with all the conviction of, well, Jim Calhoun, and that's exactly what happened.
The Huskies ended the half on a 12-4 run to take a one-point halftime lead, and then outplayed Villanova over the final 20 minutes for a 77-65 final and a trip to the Sweet 16 where they will face Iowa St. Leading the way for UConn: Senior point guard Shabazz Napier, who finished with 25 points, 21 coming in the second half. Two days prior, against St. Joseph's in the opening round, Napier was good for 24.
"I guess it means something to you guys but at the end of the day, just because they're No. 2 and we're No. 7, they don't get extra points to start the game off," Napier said. "Everybody's the same."
The Huskies and Napier suffered a scare with four minutes to go in the game after he injured his right shin. But he returned, and UConn cruised to 2-0 under Kevin Ollie in the NCAA Tournament.
"The pain was excruciating. I couldn't put any pressure on it," Napier said. "Our trainer told me to mentally stay strong. ... He put that Bio-freeze on it, and I was ready to go."
Villanova coach Jay Wright is quite familiar with Napier; he watched him the previous three seasons when the Huskies were in the Big East.
"He was just awesome," Wright said. "There was a period where he hit three 3s, and it just created a separation."
Ollie, who is making his first NCAA appearance as the Huskies' coach, has seen this movie before, too.
"He led us to victory," the coach said of Napier, the AAC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American. "He was just unbelievable in that second half: 21 points, crucial 3s, dagger 3s. He was 30 feet out and he was making them."
For the game, UConn shot 45 percent from behind the arc (9 of 20) and 44 percent from the floor while holding Villanova to 35 percent shooting. The Huskies also won the rebound battle, 36-30. In addition to Napier, four other Huskies were in double-figures: Lasan Kromah scored 12 points, while Ryan Boatright, Terrence Samuel and DeAndre Daniels added 11 each.
Next up: UConn faces Iowa State, who beat UNC Sunday, in the Sweet 16.