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  Friday, Mar. 17 3:00pm ET
UConn advances but El-Amin injures ankle

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- No one could stop Khalid El-Amin. His injury, however, could stop Connecticut.

El-Amin limped off the court with a sprained right ankle Friday after leading the defending NCAA champions to a 75-67 victory over Utah State on Friday in the opening round of the South Regional.

 Khalid El-Amin
El-Amin heard "something pop" in his right ankle.

X-rays were negative, and at first it was thought that the star point guard would not Saturday.However, El-Amin said Saturday that he was feeling better and that he would test the ankle in practice. The Huskies next play Sunday against Tennessee.

"It hurts right now, but hopefully I can be ready," El-Amin said after Friday's game. "I did not get hit. I turned to pivot and drive, but I heard something pop.

"My intentions are to play on Sunday. I'm aiming for that. But if I can't go, then I can't go."

With El-Amin in charge, the Huskies had little trouble snapping Utah State's 19-game winning streak.

But he hurt himself while driving with four minutes left and Connecticut safely ahead. El-Amin returned a minute later with the ankle taped, then limped off again.

"They could have isolated me and done what they wanted because I couldn't guard nobody," he said.

Said coach Jim Calhoun: "We have roughly 48 hours to hope he gets better. It might balloon up."

Trainer Joe Sharpe seemed optimistic.

"The prognosis is looking really good," he said.

The fifth-seeded Huskies (25-9) never trailed, building a 15-point lead late in the first half. Utah State (28-6) scored the first eight points of the second half to pull within two, but El-Amin hit a 3-pointer and set up Albert Mouring's three-point play.

El-Amin and Mouring each had 14 points and Kevin Freeman added 13. The Huskies improved to 9-0 in first-round games under Calhoun. They advanced to play fourth-seeded Tennessee, a 63-58 winner over Louisiana-Lafayette.

"I could see the confidence in guys' eyes," Freeman said. "You can't get nervous down the stretch. You just have to rely on the confidence we have from being here before."

No defending champion has lost in the opening round since UCLA in 1996 and the Huskies made sure it did not happen to them, sending Utah State to its ninth straight loss in NCAA tournament play.

Troy Rolle had 18 points and Shawn Daniels 17 for the Aggies.

Utah State had been perfect in the Big West, but could not match up in its first-ever meeting with taller, faster Big East opponent.

"The experience they gained last year really helped them," Daniels said. "They just have been able to grind a lot of games out."

"It was great to go 19 games without a loss. You can't knock that, it's just too bad it could be extended to 20," he said.

The Huskies held a 37-22 edge on the boards and, except for a short time early in the second half, were never threatened. Ajou Deng and Edmund Sanders each had eight rebounds for the winner.

Calhoun had it pretty easy, rarely having to shout. Occasionally, he urged El-Amin to hurry up, but the Connecticut defense solved most everything Utah State tried -- an Aggies assistant held up signs that said "Motion" and "Thumb Down" to no avail.

El-Amin, who starred as Connecticut marched to an NCAA title capped by a 77-74 win over Duke last season, energized the Huskies with three baskets, including a 3-pointer midway through the first half.

Edmund Saunders later made a steal and threw a behind-the-back pass to Freeman, whose slam dunk made it 31-16 and caused Utah State to call a timeout.

It was 39-29 at the break, and then the Aggies made their run at the start of the second half. The Huskies had an answer, however, and their fast hands and longer arms allowed them to pull away.

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Chat: NCAA Tourney

El-Amin hobbles into practice, hopes to play Sunday

 Jim Calhoun discusses El-Amin's ankle injury.
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