UCONN TOPS KENTUCKY FOR FOURTH NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

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The UConn Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats for the title of NCAA champions.

Robert Blaine, Reporter

The seventh-seeded University of Connecticut Huskies captured their fourth national championship in NCAA Men’s basketball with a 60-54 victory over the eight-seeded University of Kentucky Wildcats. This was the highest combined seedings of the two teams facing off in the annual championship. Senior point guard Shabazz Napier led the way with 22 points, 6 boards, and 3 assists, and he was named the Finals Four’s Most Outstanding Player for his performance. Guard Ryan Boatright added 14 points and 3 steals, while Niels Giffey had 10 points, including a big three and scintillating late-game defense against Kentucky forward Julius Randle.

The Huskies jumped out to an early lead behind the strong guard play of Napier and Boatright. Their lead was as much as 15 late in the first half, the largest deficit Kentucky had faced all tournament. The Wildcats surged back after making a switch to zone defense, cutting the lead to 4 at the half. Over the course of the second half, UConn repeatedly pulled away just for Kentucky to close the gap to as little as one point, but ultimately the Wildcats were unable to capture the lead.

This was just the Huskies’ second season under head coach Kevin Ollie, a former collegiate and professional player. UConn won the 2011 National Championship under coach Jim Calhoun, who left the team in 2012. Only Napier, Giffey, and Olander remained from that 2011 championship squad.

James Young led the way for Kentucky with 20 points. Julius Randle added 10 points and 6 boards but seemed relatively ineffective for most of the game. Aaron Harrison missed a long three late in regulation that would have cut the lead to 3 after having hit game-winners in the past three games.

Both teams provided some strong highlights, so here are just two examples of the display from last night:

With many of Kentucky’s top players and UConn’s Shabazz Napier expected to declare for the draft next season, many of these faces are unlikely to be back in the National Championship next year.