Edmund Saunders had 15 points, 11 rebounds and made key defensive plays to lead Connecticut to a 72-65 victory against South Carolina in the first round on Wednesday night.
The Huskies play Detroit in the second round. The Gamecocks played their final game for coach Eddie Fogler, who is resigning. They lost seven of their last nine games.
"I wanted our kids to have fun and play hard. Win and we go on. Lose, we lose," Fogler said. "I think they played hard and had fun."
Caron Butler had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies, who outrebounded the Gamecocks 38-25.
Jamel Bradley scored 19 and was 6-for-9 from three-point range for USC.
There were 26 lead changes and the game was close until the final four minutes.
Butler's jumper with 3:52 left snapped a 59-all tie. After a South Carolina turnover, Saunders finished off a UConn fastbreak with a reverse hook to put the Huskies up 63-61.
UConn's Taliek Brown was fouled as he fielded a defensive rebound and converted a one-and-one, giving the Huskies a 65-59 lead with 2:49 remaining.
Aaron Lucas went to the line for the Gamecocks with 2:28 left, missed the first shot of a one-and-one and Saunders came down with the rebound. The possession resulted in a three-pointer from Albert Mouring as the Huskies outscored the Gamecocks 7-6 the rest of the way.
Saunders had three points in a 10-3 UConn run to give the Huskies a 25-20 lead with 9:39 left in the first. But the edge quickly disappeared as five UConn turnovers over the next three minutes resulted in a 14-7 South Carolina run.
Bradley hit three three-pointers in that spurt and the Gamecocks took a 35-32 lead at the break.
Marius Petravicius added 15 for South Carolina.
UConn has appeared in 11 NITs and won in 1988 in coach Jim Calhoun's second season.
Auburn ends Miami's season
AUBURN, Ala. _ Marquis Daniels scored 15 points and Kyle Davis set an NIT record with 13 blocked shots as Auburn shut down Miami in the second half for a 60-58 victory.
Daniels hit one of his two free throws with 23 seconds left and Darius Rice's off-balance three-pointer over Daniels fell well short of the basket. Joe Gordon got the rebound but couldn't get a shot off before the buzzer.
The Tigers won for the second time in six NIT trips and held Miami to 17 points in the second half.
Auburn advanced to play Purdue, a 90-79 winner against Illinois State.
Miami hasn't won an NIT game since 1963 and is 1-6 overall. The Hurricanes are 5-36 against SEC teams on the road.
Miami led 41-31 at halftime, but was 6-of-28 from the floor after that and missed all seven three-pointers.
Davis had 11 second-half blocks against a team with four starters at least 6 feet 7. The 6-10 freshman, who led the league in blocks, had the fifth-highest total in NCAA history and the second most in SEC history.
He also broke Mamadou N'diaye's Auburn single-season record of 77 and finished with seven points and eight rebounds.
"This is a very disappointing loss for us," Miami coach Perry Clark said. "Davis was the key to the ballgame. Every time we got a good look, he really affected us, either blocking our shot or making us alternate our shots. He put Auburn in a position to win the ballgame."