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The final two minutes of regulation might have haunted Shabazz Napier forever had they been left to him and him alone. He lost the ball out of bounds on the dribble down a point. He failed to connect on a drive with the Huskies down three. If not for the heroic three-point play of a teammate that arose from his miss, Napier would have left the First Niagara Center on Thursday night lamenting his inability to deliver when the Huskies most needed him to perform to AAC Player of the Year standards.

But the elite have a way of seizing second chances, and overtime provided Napier the opportunity to make things right. Suddenly the floor transformed into his personal playground and his forays toward the basket became impossible to defend. Nine of UConn’s 19 overtime points came from his hand in an 89-81 conquest of Saint Joseph’s in a second round thriller. “That’s what you’ve got to do when you come to these tournaments,” Napier said. “You’ve got to just keeping pushing along because anything can happen.”

Napier finished with 25 points, more than five over his average, as UConn won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since its 2011 title run. He was 8 of 8 from the foul line and made all seven of his attempts in the extra session. DeAndre Daniels (18), Ryan Boatright (17) and Niels Giffey (10) also scored in double figures for the Huskies (27-8), who will take on Villanova at 9:40 p.m. on Saturday.

Senior guard Langston Galloway topped Saint Joseph’s with 25 points and was one of two Hawk starters credited playing all 45 minutes. True to form, Saint Joseph’s got only nine minutes out of its bench, a number inflated when Halil Kanacevic (12 points) fouled out with 3:10 left in OT.

UConn was perched on the brink of elimination. Saint Joseph’s led, 70-67, after two Chris Wilson free throws with 49.2 seconds left and, predictably, the Huskies turned to their premier talent. Napier drove the basket but couldn’t connect. Arms reached, hands yearning for possession, before Amida Brimah, a rapidly emerging 7-foot freshman, snared it, scored, and drew Kanacevic’s fourth foul with 39 seconds left. The must-have free throw? Perfect.

“Man, for him to make that play, just for him to go to the line like he knew he was going to make it, he went to the line with the swag and all that,” Boatright said. “It was a big play for us.”

“I did a horrible job boxing out Brimah, and he got the offensive rebound and got that one,” Kanacevic said. “That was the pivotal moment when we had them.”

Saint Joseph’s still had the game’s two most cherished commodities: time and possession. This was Galloway territory. The senior beat Dayton in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals with a shot at the buzzer. He nailed another vital field goal down the stretch of the title game win over VCU. This time he temporarily lost the handle on the dribble and fired off a shot under duress. The ball never caught rim, causing a shot clock violation, and UConn nearly won in regulation on Napier’s running 20-foot attempt at the buzzer.

“I wanted to go out with the ball being in my hands,” Galloway said.

“If they said, you know, rewind, we’re going to do that again, then I would give him the ball again and let him make a play because both of the big plays he made last weekend, he had the ball,” said Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli.

The OT became Napier’s domain. He sank two free throws for a 77-73 advantage with 2:12 left, struck for a conventional three-point play to make it 80-73 a tad over a minute later. Held to just five first-half points and 16 through regulation, he emerged as if on call.

“You know, at the end of the day, I’ve been playing basketball since I was 5½,” Napier said. “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.”

UConn 89, St. Joseph’s 81 (OT)

St. Joseph’s Min FG 3P FT A PF PT

Roberts, Jr 42 6-9 3-4 5-10 0 1 15

Bembry 45 5-11 6-8 2-4 2 3 16

Kanacevic 41 4-10 3-4 1-7 5 5 12

Galloway 45 8-13 5-6 1-3 3 3 25

Wilson 43 4-9 3-5 0-5 1 5 13

Maschmeyer 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Quarles 3 0-0 0-0 0-1 0 1 0

Ndao 6 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 4 0

Kelly 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Totals 225 27-54 20-27 9-33 12 22 81

Percentages: FG .500, FT .741.

3-Point Goals: 7-21, .333 (Galloway 4-7, Wilson 2-5, Kanacevic 1-4, Ndao 0-2, Bembry 0-3).

Team Rebounds: 3.

Blocked Shots: 2 (Roberts, Jr., Kanacevic).

Turnovers: 14 (Bembry 4, Kanacevic 2, Galloway 2, Roberts, Jr. 2, Wilson 2, Quarles).

Steals: 3 (Galloway, Wilson, Quarles).

Technical Fouls: None.

UConn Min FG 3P FT A PF PT

Daniels 34 6-11 3-3 0-4 0 4 18

Giffey 31 4-9 0-0 2-4 1 4 10

Nolan 10 3-5 1-2 0-3 0 4 7

Boatright 42 5-10 3-4 0-1 3 1 17

Napier 42 7-22 8-8 1-8 6 1 24

Samuel 5 0-2 0-0 1-2 0 1 0

Olander 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Kromah 27 0-0 1-1 1-2 1 1 4

Calhoun 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

Brimah 30 3-4 3-3 4-6 1 4 9

Totals 225 30-66 18-20 12-34 13 21 89

Percentages: FG .455, FT .900.

3-Point Goals: 11-24, .458 (Boatright 4-6, Daniels 3-6, Giffey 2-4, Napier 2-8).

Team Rebounds: 5.

Blocked Shots: 2 (Brimah, Daniels).

Turnovers: 9 (Napier 4, Brimah, Nolan, Boatright, Calhoun).

Steals: 6 (Napier 3, Daniels, Giffey, Kromah).

Technical Fouls: None.

Saint Joseph’s 40 30 11—81

UConn 35 35 19—89

A—NA.

Officials—Antinio Petty, Jeffrey Anderson, Gary Maxwell.

email: bdicesare@buffnews.com