Buffalo, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Shabazz Napier poured in a game-high 25 points, as Connecticut upended former Big East foe Villanova, 77-65, on Saturday in third-round action from the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Lasan Kromah supplied 12 points, while DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright and Terrence Samuel each scored 11 for the seventh-seeded Huskies (28-8), who secured a spot in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011, when they went on to win the NCAA title.
"He led us to victory," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said of Napier. "He was just unbelievable in that second half."
UConn awaits the winner of Sunday's third-round matchup between North Carolina and Iowa State in the Sweet 16 next Friday at Madison Square Garden.
Ryan Arcidiacono registered 18 points and six assists to pace the second- seeded Wildcats (29-5), who went 18-of-51 from the field, including 11-of-31 from 3-point range in the setback.
"This is certainly a tough way to end a season," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. "I don't want to let this put a damper on what this group has done this year. I want to congratulate UConn. Their defense in the second half was outstanding and Napier was just awesome."
The Wildcats shot the ball well in the early going, as a Darrun Hilliard 3- pointer gave his team a 19-9 lead just under 8 1/2 minutes into the contest.
However, the Huskies held Villanova without a field goal from there until the closing seconds of the half, as UConn used a 16-1 burst over the next 11 minutes to take a 25-20 lead.
Daniels and Kromah each drilled a triple in the run before a JayVaughn Pinkston free throw followed by a Arcidiacono 3-pointer pulled Villanova within one, 25-24, heading into halftime.
Arcidiacono opened the second half with another triple to put the Wildcats back on top, but UConn countered with an 8-0 run, capped by consecutive triples from Daniels and Napier, to grab a 33-27 advantage.
James Bell buried back-to-back treys shortly after to give Villanova a 36-35 lead, but the Huskies roared back with a 16-4 burst that Napier finished with a pair of 3-pointers for a 51-40 lead with nine minutes left.
Pinkston's layup pulled Villanova within five, 56-51, with four minutes to go before a 9-2 surge from the Huskies pushed the spread back to double digits.
Villanova got within five again following Kris Jenkins' triple with one minute left, but UConn went 9-of-10 from the free throw line down the stretch to seal the outcome.
After spending many years in the Big East, UConn made the move to the American Athletic Conference this season ... Despite the loss, Villanova holds a 33-31 edge in the all-time series ... UConn secured its 17th Sweet 16 appearance in school history ... Bell scored 14, Hilliard had 13 points and Pinkston posted 11 points for Villanova ... UConn scored 20 points off 16 Villanova turnovers, while the Wildcats managed just four points off 11 turnovers from the Huskies ... UConn's bench outscored Villanova's reserves, 26-5.