NCAA: UConn takes down Kentucky to win championship
The University of Connecticut Huskies are on top of the college basketball world after defeating the University of Kentucky Wildcats on Monday night with a final score of 60-54 marking the first time in tournament history that a 7-seed ended up hoisting the NCAA Championship trophy.
UConn (32-8) took the lead right from the get-go and never gave up that lead throughout the game’s entirety. Kentucky (29-11) trailed 30-15 to mark the biggest deficit of the game, but would use a 16-5 run to close out the first half to trim the lead to 35-31 as the teams headed into the locker room.
The late first half push is credited to Kentucky coach John Calipari switching from his typical man-to-man defense to a 1-3-1 zone. Calipari rarely uses a zone, as he used a man-to-man defense on 95% of defensive possessions in the regular season. The switch to the zone was due to the speed of UConn’s guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright who continuously blew past the Kentucky big men.
The Wildcats would cut the lead down to one point with 8:13 left in the second half, but finally the Huskies figured out the Kentucky zone. UConn would get the ball to Deandre Daniels in the high post who would pass the ball to a cutting forward underneath the basket or pass it out to Napier who would take care of business from the perimeter.
Senior guard Napier played an all-around great game finishing with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals to win his second NCAA Championship in his college career. Napier was also named the Final Four’s most outstanding player.
In his post-game interview Napier referred to his team as the “hungry huskies” and also that “this is what happens when you banned us.” The Connecticut Huskies were ruled ineligible from the 2013 NCAA Tournament due to grade issues. To say this lit a fire under UConn this season would be an understatement.
James Young led the Wildcats in scoring with 20 points and also grabbed seven rebounds in the process, but his contribution wasn’t quite enough. As a team, Kentucky shot 13/24 from the free throw line. This situation is eerily similar to Calipari’s Memphis team who blew a big lead in the 2008 NCAA Championship against Kansas because they couldn’t make their free throws. On the other hand, UConn was a perfect 10/10 from the charity stripe and were a top-10 free throw shooting team in the nation this season.
Kevin Ollie is the first NCAA Men’s Basketball coach to win the NCAA Tournament in his tournament debut as a coach since 1989. With the win, UConn improved to 4-0 in NCAA Championship games. Between the men’s team and the UConn Women’s Basketball team, their school as a whole is 12-0 in NCAA Basketball Championship games.