Connecticut wins NCAA title, 60-54 over Kentucky
Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 12:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 at 12:19 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Connecticut proved the best player on the floor could carry a team all the way to a national championship.
Behind 22 points from senior All-American senior point guard Shabazz Napier, the Huskies held off several Kentucky second-half charges to beat the Wildcats 60-54 in the NCAA title game.
Connecticut (32-8) overcame a 33-point loss late in the regular season against Louisville to put together a historic run, becoming the first 7-seed ever to win an NCAA Tournament.
“I said in the beginning that the last is going to be the first,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “Now the last is the first, but we always did it together.”
Napier was named the Final Four's most outstanding player.
“Ladies and gentleman, you are looking at the hungry Huskies,” Napier said, hoisting the NCAA Championship trophy and pointing it toward the crowd.
Before an NCAA Finals record 79,238 at AT&T Stadium, Connecticut jumped to a 15-point first half lead and held on for its fourth national title since 1999. Gator fans can take solace in the fact that two of UF's three losses came against the eventual national champions. Florida lost 65-64 at UConn on Dec. 2 and 63-53 to the Huskies in Saturday's Final Four.
“We put in too much work all year for this to end,” said Connecticut junior guard Ryan Boatright, who added 14 points, and 3 assists.
After winning its previous two games on its last offensive possession, Kentucky ran out of miracles. The Wildcats cut Connecticut's lead to 58-54 on a James Young layup with 1:08 remaining. But inexplicably, Kentucky allowed Connecticut to run clock before forward Lasan Kromah was fouled with 25.8 seconds remaining. Kromah made both free throws to extend UConn's lead to 60-54.
Twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison missed back-to-back 3-point attempts. Boatright grabbed the rebound and ran out the clock. Young led Kentucky (29-11) with 20 points, but the Wildcats were done in at the free-throw line, making just 13 of 24 attempts The Wildcats were vying to become the first team to start five freshman to win a national championship, but failed to make the big shots and big plays that carried them in last possession NCAA Tournament wins against Wichita State, Michigan and Wisconsin.
All week, Ollie talked about playing at “Level 5.” After playing to that standard to knock top overall seed Florida out of the NCAA tournament, Connecticut carried it over to the start of the Kentucky game.
The Huskies jumped to an early 30-15 lead, with Napier and Boatright frustrating Kentucky guards into mistakes. But with Boatright and forward DeAndre Daniels on the bench with two fouls apiece, Kentucky chipped away at UConn's lead. Young and Andrew Harrison hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut UConn's lead to 33-26. After a Napier basket put the Huskies up 35-27, Randle hit back-to-back inside baskets to cut UConn's lead to 35-31 at halftime.
Connecticut scored 11 points off turnovers in the first half, but Kentucky stayed in the game by shooting 4-of-9 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes.Kentucky outscored Connecticut 16-5 in the final 5:41 of the first half.