NEW YORK — DeAndre Daniels’ UConn teammates were going to keep passing him the ball until he cooled off.
By the time that happened, it was too late for Iowa State.
Daniels scored 19 of his 27 points in the second half, and the Huskies hung on for an 81-76 victory Friday to reach the East Regional final a year after UConn was barred from the NCAA tournament.
“DeAndre’s a scorer, and once you feel that you have that confidence, the next shot’s going to go in,” said senior Shabazz Napier, who knows a thing or two about scoring himself. “We kept feeding him, and he got super hot.”
Daniels hit his first six shots after halftime, the only Husky to make a field goal for over 8½ minutes. His 3-pointer gave seventh-seeded UConn a 49-32 lead.
The third-seeded Cyclones rallied late, pulling within 67-63 with 2½ minutes remaining. But senior Niels Giffey hit a 3 in the corner for his first points since the game’s opening moments, and when the Huskies (29-8) made their free throws in the final minute, the UConn fans packing Madison Square Garden could celebrate.
The Huskies will face fourth-seeded Michigan State on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four after the Spartans beat top-seeded Virginia 61-59 in the late game.
Dustin Hogue scored a career-high 34 points for Iowa State (28-8), but Big 12 player of the year Melvin Ejim was 3 of 13 for seven points, more than 11 below his average.
The Cyclones, in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2000, were playing their second game without third-leading scorer Georges Niang, who broke his foot in their tournament opener.
They trailed by 16 with less than 7½ minutes to go but nearly came all the way back behind Hogue’s scoring inside.
“That’s who these guys are, they’re fighters,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
With UConn clinging to a 70-65 lead and less than a minute left, Iowa State’s Naz Long missed a 3-pointer, and the 6-1 Napier pulled down the rebound and was fouled by Hogue. The guard calmly drilled both free throws.
UConn was 20 of 22 from the foul line, while Iowa State was 6 of 15.
Napier, the American Athletic Conference player of the year, drained four early 3-pointers, then made only one more field goal the rest of the way. But the quick start by Napier and backcourt mate Ryan Boatright opened up space for the 6-foot-9 Daniels, an inconsistent junior who can score all over the court when he’s on.
Since a stretch in late February and early March when he failed to reach double figures in four straight games, Daniels had averaged 15 in his last six outings before Friday. Then against Iowa State, he shot 10 of 15 and pulled down 10 rebounds.
“With our seniors on this team, I just want them to go out with a bang,” Daniels said.
Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Iowa State’s top scorers, were a combined 9 of 31.
Michigan 73, Tennessee 71
INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan coach John Beilein had watched his team blow almost all of a 15-point lead, and he was sure he knew how Tennessee would try to take the lead.
With 6 seconds left and trailing 72-71, Cuonzo Martin would probably send the ball into Jarnell Stokes, who would try to back into the post or drive. Beilein urged his defenders to buckle down and keep Stokes away from the rim.
Jordan Morgan, who scored 15 points, heeded his coach’s advice and stood his ground until Stokes lowered his shoulder. The senior forward immediately crashed to the floor — perhaps embellishing the contact — but drawing the call that saved the game for Michigan and infuriated Tennessee’s “Rocky Top” contingent.
Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas made a late free throw and nobody was more relieved than Beilein when Jordan McRae’s 70-foot heave fell harmlessly to the floor as the buzzer sounded on a 73-71 Michigan victory.
“We got just enough stops,” Beilein said.
Tennessee thought they got one stop unfairly.
“With the magnitude of this game, I don’t think you could call a charge at that point,” McRae said dejectedly after scoring 24 points.
But the officials did call it, allowing Michigan to reach a second straight regional final.
The Wolverines (28-8) have won 10 of their last 11, none as tenuous or excruciating as this one to set up a Sunday showdown against eighth-seeded Kentucky, the 2012 national champion. The Wildcats won 74-69 over fourth-seeded Louisville, which beat Michigan in last year’s national championship game.