The UConn Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 in the national championship game. The slow and sometimes sloppy game played competitively. But the Huskies never once trailed.
Kentucky had their chances. After a jittery start that saw them down fifteen points, the Wildcats clawed their way back within four by halftime. Never leading at the intermission in any of their tournament games, Kentucky seemed poised to pounce in the second half.
Aaron Harrison’s three-pointer to start the second half suggested they would do as much. And when the Huskies didn’t score for six minutes until almost eight minutes into the half, UConn seemed ripe for the picking. But the young Kentucky team just couldn’t capitalize.
Two UConn veterans from the 2011 national championship team ultimately ensured that the Huskies would enjoy yet another title. Guard Shabazz Napier jaying a three at the 6:50 mark followed by a Niels Giffey three-pointer put UConn up 54-49. Guard Ryan Boatright, who awkwardly landed on his ankle after receiving a pass late in the second half, courageously remained in the game and ultimately contributed 14 points for UConn on 4 of 5 shooting from the field and 4 of 4 from the charity stripe. UConn controlled the ball for much of the final minutes of the game to keep Kentucky from mounting the kind of comeback they’ve become accustomed to.
Napier, whose ups and downs seemed to determine his team’s highs and lows, scored 22 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, which earned him the game’s “most outstanding player” award. “This is what happens when you ban us,” he announced after the game, referencing the NCAA’s sanctions on the team last season. Napier called his teammates “the hungry Huskies.”
The victory marks the fourth UConn championship in fifteen seasons and the first seventh-seeded team to win a national championship. UConn’s undefeated women’s team seeks to win their own national championship Tuesday night in a game against undefeated Notre Dame.