As boisterous UConn fans turned Madison Square Garden into their home arena, the Huskies rewarded their followers in the NCAA East Regional semifinal game Friday night.

The Huskies seized control early and maintained a strong grip on Iowa State, holding on for an 81-76 Sweet 16 victory before a decidedly pro-UConn crowd in New York City. The victory propelled UConn (29-8) to the regional final Sunday against the winner of the Michigan State-Virginia game.

Returning to the building where UConn had so many memorable performances in the Big East tournament, the Huskies played with the swagger of a home team. The victory over Iowa State improved UConn's record to 60-52 in the building where it won the 1988 NIT crown and seven Big East tournament titles.

Junior DeAndre Daniels led UConn with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Shabazz Napier added 19 points and Ryan Boatright scored 16.

UConn led by as many as 16 points in the second half, but Iowa State (28-8) charged back. When Naz Long converted a three-point jumper with 2:24 left, UConn's lead was cut to four points and Iowa State's fans erupted.

But UConn responded with a counterpunch 35 seconds later. Niels Giffey hit a three-pointer from the left corner and the comeback was halted.

This is the 11th time that UConn has advanced to the Elite Eight and the first time since 2001, when the team won its third NCAA title. In 2012, UConn was eliminated by Iowa State in the second round.

This time, the No. 3 seed Cyclones didn't seem to stand a chance in the early going. UConn, the No. 7 seed, jumped to a quick lead behind the sharp and deep shooting of Napier, who scored 12 points as he hit 4 of 5 three-point attempts in the first half.