UConn Huskies win national championship, beating Kentucky Wildcats
In a game featuring the highest combined seeds in the history of the national championship game, the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 at AT&T Stadium in North Texas to win the school's fourth NCAA title. All of those championships have come since 1999, the third-fastest a team has won four titles in NCAA history. It is UConn's second title in four seasons and the first for 41-year-old head coach Kevin Ollie, who is in just his second season leading his alma mater and only four years removed from a 13-year career as an NBA player.
Just as in 2011, the Huskies were led to the championship by a stellar performance from a veteran guard. That year, it was junior Kemba Walker, who averaged 23.5 points during UConn's six-game run to the title as a No. 3 seed. This year, it was senior Shabazz Napier, a freshman on that team three years ago, who scored 22 points on Monday night to help the seventh-seeded Huskies knock off the eighth-seeded Wildcats while earning Most Outstanding Player honors. UConn is the first No. 7 seed ever to win the national championship.
Kentucky was bidding to become the first team with five freshman starters to win the title and for its second championship in three seasons. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half and despite closing to within one on several occasions, never tied the game after it was 6-6 and didn't lead once all night. James Young led UK with 20 points and Julius Randle had 10 despite appearing to be hobbled by an ankle injury. The Wildcats were looking for their ninth NCAA title, instead they lost for the fourth time. UConn is now 4-0 in championship games. With guards Napier and Ryan Boatright leading the way, the Huskies jumped out to a 30-15 lead, making it the fourth straight game that Kentucky trailed by at least nine points in the first half. Unlike in thrilling wins over Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin to reach the final, the Wildcats were never able to claw their way in front. They cut UConn's lead to four at halftime and were within one at 35-34 on a three by Aaron Harrison -- whose triples in the final seconds proved to be the game-winners in their three most recent wins -- but Boatright answered with a jumper to push the lead back to three. Twice more Kentucky got within a point, the last time at 48-47, and Harrison had a chance for yet another go-ahead three-pointer but he missed. Napier and Niels Giffey responded with consecutive threes for UConn, pushing the advantage back to five at 54-49 and Kentucky never got closer than four points the rest of the way.