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Thursday, March 15, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Iowa State 77, UConn 64

By Brian Bennett


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The games in Louisville have all wrapped up, and the chalk advanced with every higher seed winning by double digits. But the late-game result still might surprise some people.

Here's a look at No. 8 Iowa State's 77-64 victory over No. 9 seed Connecticut in the final game at the KFC Yum! Center on Thursday:

Overview: Fans and TV executives probably wanted the appetizing third-round matchup between Kentucky, the presumed favorite in this year's field, and defending national champion Connecticut. But you get only what you deserve in the NCAA tournament, and Iowa State certainly earned its way into a matchup against the nation's No. 1 team.

The Cyclones had a better season than Connecticut and were the better team on Thursday night. They rode a hot-shooting start -- making eight of their first 11 attempts -- to a 22-point first-half lead. And even though Fred Hoiberg's 3-point-loving team didn't make a single triple in the second half, it surprisingly outmuscled and outhustled UConn.

Don't sleep on this Iowa State team, whose unique style of play could cause Kentucky trouble. Just ask the defending champs.

Turning point: Connecticut's Ryan Boatright scored seven straight points, the last of which was a 3-pointer, to cut Iowa State's lead to 58-52 with a little more than eight minutes left. But Kemba Walker was not walking through that door. The Cyclones would score the next seven points by beating the Huskies around the rim.

Key player: Chris Allen knows how to win in the NCAA tournament from his days at Michigan State, so it was no surprise Allen made a lot of winning plays when needed. The Iowa State guard scored a team-high 20 points, including a key putback to repel UConn's second-half rally. Honorable mention to Royce White, who had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Key stat: We knew Iowa State could shoot it, but we weren't sure the Cyclones could push around a Big East team. But that's exactly what they did on the backboards, outrebounding the Huskies 37-20.

Miscellany: UConn became just the fourth defending champion to lose its first game of the NCAA tournament since seeding began in 1979. The other three teams to do so (1996 UCLA, 1988 Indiana and 1981 Louisville) were all No. 4 seeds. ... The 42 points scored by Iowa State in the first half were one more than Butler managed in the entire national championship game last year against Connecticut. ... Two plays that seemed to sum up the Huskies' troubles, if not their season: Roscoe Smith threw up a Hail Mary from beyond half court near the end of the first half, only there was still more than three seconds left and he let Iowa State have the ball back with time remaining. And at the end of the game, Jeremy Lamb attempted a wind mill dunk just before the buzzer. He missed, badly.

What's next: Iowa State will face No. 1 overall seed Kentucky in the third round Saturday. The two teams met in their second game of the tournament 20 years ago, with the Wildcats winning.