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UConn 89, St. Joseph’s 81

Shabazz Napier lifts UConn over St. Joseph’s in overtime

Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies went up for a layup against the Saint Joseph's Hawks during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies went up for a layup against the Saint Joseph's Hawks during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

BUFFALO — Turns out, Jim Calhoun left Connecticut in good hands.

With Calhoun watching from the stands, the Huskies continued their winning NCAA Tournament tradition thanks to a hold-over player in senior guard Shabazz Napier and a new coach, Kevin Ollie.

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Napier shook off several misses — including a 3-point attempt at the end of the second half — to score 9 of his 24 points in overtime as UConn earned an 89-81 win over St. Joseph’s in the second round on Thursday night.

It came in Ollie’s tournament debut behind the bench, two years after health issues forced Calhoun to step down, and a year after the Huskies were barred from postseason play because of academic sanctions.

‘‘It was a great win,’’ Ollie said. ‘‘Those players right there, that’s what kept this university alive. They could have transferred. They could have done everything . . . They just stayed and they were resilient, and they played hard.’’

Napier, a freshman on Calhoun’s 2011 national championship team, was among those who elected to stay and help usher in a new era.

‘‘That’s why I came to the University of Connecticut to play in these tournaments, to give myself and my team a chance to hoist that trophy at the end of the day,’’ Napier said. ‘‘We’re here for one common goal.’’

DeAndre Daniels scored 18 points while freshman center Amida Brimah forced overtime for the Huskies (27-8) by completing a three-point play in the final minute.

UConn, the East Region’s seventh seed, advances to play Villanova in a third-round game on Saturday.

Langston Galloway scored 25 points for St. Joseph’s (24-10).

The Hawks wore down because of a lack of depth, and then lost top forward Halil Kanacevic, who fouled out early into overtime.

‘‘I definitely didn’t want to go out like that,’’ said Kanacevic, who scored 12 points.

The foul occurred with 3:47 left in overtime, when Kanacevic attempted to stop Daniels from driving the lane. Daniels still hit the shot, and then drained the free throw to put UConn ahead, 73-70.

Napier then scored 7 straight points — 5 of them from the line — to put the Huskies up, 82-74, with 55 seconds remaining.

The game turned in the final minute of regulation after Chris Wilson hit two free throws to put St. Joseph’s up, 70-67, with 49.2 seconds left.

Napier missed on a drive at the other end, but Brimah got the rebound to the left of the basket, and was fouled while putting it back. He tied the game by hitting the free throw.

With 2.7 seconds left, the Huskies made two nifty passes to get the ball to Napier on the fly, who pulled up just before the 3-point line and had his shot hit off the rim.

‘‘Just because I missed two shots, three shots doesn’t mean I'm not going to take the next one with a lot of confidence,’’ said Napier, who finished 7 of 22 from the field. ‘‘Today was a big dogfight, but we willed ourselves and just continued to push each other to get the win.’’

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