STORRS, Conn. -- It took 13 games and 830 minutes, but Mamadou Diouf, the Huskies leading scorer a year ago, found the back of the net for the first time in 2013, propelling the Huskies to a 2-1 victory against Quinnipiac in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division I tournament on Thursday night at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium. Connecticut (12-2-6) advances in the tournament and will travel to nationally ranked UMBC for a second-round match set for 5 p.m. Sunday.
Diouf’s game winner came at the 80:51 mark when freshman right back Jakob Nerwinski centered a pass from the end line toward Diouf who headed the ball into the upper middle of the net to give UConn a 2-1 edge. With the goal, Diouf moved into ninth place in UConn history with 35 career tallies.
“My teammates have all been telling me to keep working hard,” Diouf said. “Even if I wasn’t scoring I wanted to help our team win. I’m happy for this goal to have come tonight.”
UConn now holds a 31-15-3 all-time mark at home in NCAA tournament action, including an 18-5-3 record under 17th-year head coach Ray Reid. The Huskies boast a 15-game unbeaten streak and have out-scored opponents 12-1 in their last seven matches.
UConn’s first goal came at the 50:30 mark as George Fochive laced a beautiful through-ball to Nerwinski in the right side of the box. Nerwinski dribbled forward and sent a curling cross to Zuniga, who tapped in his fourth goal of the season. For Zuniga, four of his five career goals have come in postseason play, including three this season. The Bobcats drew even in the 72nd minute, when Simon Hinde scored his team-leading 10th goal of the season when he beat the Husky defense and sent a shot into the right corner of the net, equalizing the score at 1-1. The goal snapped Andre Blake’s 657-minute scoreless streak and was just the 10th score allowed by him this season.
The Huskies outshot their in-state rivals 5-3 in the first half. UConn had two quality chances late in the half, as Zuniga nearly gave the Huskies the lead when he flicked a header wide right of the net off a corner taken by Nerwinski at 17:09.
“We’ve got a good group of guys,” Reid said. “It’s fun to coach these guys. We hope we have a lot of soccer left to play.”
Less than 10 minutes later, at the 7:35 mark, junior midfielder Edir DaGraca took a through-ball from Adria Beso near the top of the box but blasted a shot that flew over the crossbar and into the student section.
Quinnipiac’s best chance came with just more than 10 minutes remaining when Simon Hinde sent a cross from the left flank toward a streaking Bobcat forward but his pass was a step ahead of his teammate as Blake came off his line and broke up the play.
The Huskies nearly doubled their lead with 34:51 remaining in regulation when freshman Cyle Larin was pulled down in the box as he tried to find space to take a shot, earning a penalty kick. Diouf headed to the penalty hash mark for UConn but his knuckling attempt was batted down by Borja Angoitia. Connecticut had converted both its penalty attempts in 2013 leading up to Diouf’s miss.
Blake, who made one save, improves to 10-2-6 in 2013 while his counterpart Angiotia stopped four Husky shots but allowed both goals.
The Bobcats finish up 2013 with a 9-5-7 record after qualifying for their first NCAA tournament berth.