UConn Huskies defeat San Diego State to win NCAA men’s basketball title

UConn Huskies – Every day, Dan Hurley enters his office in the Werth Family Champions Center through the banners, trophies, and downed nets from the illustrious past of the UConn men’s basketball team.

“You walk around the building and it’s a museum,” he said. “It’s a museum of what other people accomplished. Incredible people.”

Hurley and his amazing Huskies added their own triumph to UConn mythology on Monday night at NRG Stadium, the location of one of the Huskies’ four prior national championship victories.

UConn defeated San Diego State 76-59 to earn the program’s fifth national championship, capping up a strong run through the NCAA Tournament. The only teams with more victories are UCLA (11), Kentucky (8), and North Carolina (6). Duke and Indiana have won just as many. For the past 24 years, no other team has won five games, as UConn has done with three different coaches: Jim Calhoun, Kevin Ollie and Hurley.

“We’ve been striving for No. 5!,” Hurley shouted from the podium out on the court, shortly after the confetti had fallen from the rafters and before “One Shining Moment” blared from the speakers. “Now, we’ve got our own!”

UConn Huskies defeat San Diego

The Huskies were the first team in NCAA tournament history to win all six games by a margin of at least 13 points. UConn finished fourth best since the tournament field was extended to 64 teams in 1985 with an average victory margin of 20 points.

With victories over Duke (1999), Georgia Tech (2004), Butler (2011), Kentucky (2014), and now San Diego State, UConn has never lost in a championship game. Although at the time it was known as Reliant Stadium, the 2011 championship win, fueled by Kemba Walker, was also in this building. There were a lot of former UConn players among the 72,433 spectators, including Walker.

Similar to their triumph in 2011, the Huskies won by employing a smothering defence that limited SDSU to 32 percent shooting overall and 28.6 percent shooting in the first half.

Even so, San Diego State (32-7) emerged as UConn’s biggest test to date, refusing to fold despite a terrible first-half offensive performance. Following a transition 3-pointer by Joey Calcaterra with 3:18 remaining in the first half, the Aztecs were behind by 16 points, but they scored the final four points of the period to close the gap to just five (60-55) with 5:19 left to play.

But, Jordan Hawkins, who had been struggling in the second half, hit a massive 3-pointer off a screen, starting a 9-0 run that all but secured the outcome.

“Coach drew something up for me, I know he trusted me to make that shot,” Hawkins said. “I had to make it. Easy part. All credit to my teammates for getting me open on those screens, and Coach for trusting me.”

“It was giant, huge for us,” freshman Alex Karaban said of Hawkins trey. “It really gave us a lot more confidence, because they were really playing well defensively and turning defense to offense. It was tough for us to respond to that run, but he made that big-time shot and he really saved us.”

Tristen Newton, a point guard for UConn, finished the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and five turnovers to add some intrigue. Adama Sanogo, who also contributed 17 points and 10 boards, was voted the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

“He’s obviously cemented himself into the pantheon of the greatest big guys, With all the output, two consecutive first-team all-league selections, and now this,” Hurley said of the 6-foot-9 junior centre. “Just becoming the national champion places him in a position within one of college basketball’s most legendary programmes. He’s an all-time great.”

Together with Florida Atlantic’s Alijah Martin and San Diego State’s Lamont Butler, Newton and Hawkins (16 points each) joined Sanogo on the All-Tournament team.

In reality, San Diego State made four out of its opening five attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers. The Huskies’ defence, however, stood firm, as the Aztecs were only able to connect on five of their remaining 23 attempts, missing 14 in a row at one point.

“I mean, we’re a great defensive team,” Hawkins said. “When we can make stops like that and move on during transition, it has a significant impact on the game. Simply keeping them there, I believe, was a major accomplishment for us.”

UConn took advantage, using a 16-2 run to take as much as a 16-point lead following Newton’s personal 7-0 run, then again after an impressive sequence. Damion Trammell of SDSU successfully picked Newton’s pocket and attempted a transition layup, but he missed. UConn quickly pushed the ball up the floor, Andre Jackson Jr. went behind the back to Calcaterra, who knocked down the 3.

Although behind by 12 points (36-24) before the break, San Diego State scored the final four points of the half. The Aztecs could only come closer by five. In fact, in the second half, no other team in this event even came close to the Huskies.

In all six of their NCAA tournament games, UConn trailed for precisely 22 minutes. At halftime, the Huskies were down by two points to Iona. But, they seized the lead just 17 seconds into the second half and never looked back. any of their competition games.

“One of the most dominant squads from this March Madness run has to be ours,” said Karaban, a true student of college hoops history. “After 50 years, I can enter Gampel and tell my children, “See, I helped win this banner for us.’ It’s just unreal.”

In fact, Hurley and the Huskies now have a designated spot among the banners at Gampel Pavilion, inside the trophy case in the Werth Center’s entrance lobby, and on the walls of the practise room.

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