"I think I definitely have to credit their defense," Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon said. "They have a lot of good athletes. They contest shots. But we also missed some easy layups inside for sure. But I can't take away from their defense."
Branden Dawson had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Michigan State and Adreian Payne added 16 points, including the 3-pointer with 1:29 left that gave the Spartans the lead for good at 54-51.
Dawson, who averages 11.0 points per game, has scored in double figures in six straight games and he had a career-high 26 points in the third-round win over Harvard. He missed nine games this season with a broken right hand, an injury he inflicted on himself when he hit a table while watching film.
"It was tough, being out for those nine games," Dawson said. "For me, just making the bad decision that I made, I learned from it a lot. That didn't stop me from coming in and working hard, and I think that being out for those nine games, I just told myself that my team needs me, and I just need to step up and be a man. And that's what I did."
Izzo called Dawson "a freak athlete," both in strength and athletic ability.
"He's not been a very good shooter. He's worked hard on it," Izzo said.
Joe Harris and Brogdon both had 17 points for Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament champion.
Connecticut rode the 27 points and 10 rebounds from DeAndre Daniels to the win over the Cyclones (28-7). He scored 19 points in the second half.
"DeAndre's a scorer, and once you feel that you have that confidence, the next shot's going to go in," said Shabazz Napier, Daniels' teammate and the American Athletic Conference player of the year. "We kept feeding him, and he got super hot."