Points were surely at a premium last night in Houston, and ultimately the Connecticut Huskies captured their third title in school history by defeating the Butler Bulldogs 53-41.
It was surely an ugly game to witness, both teams came out cold shooting under 30 percent from the floor and Butler only had one 2 point field goal in the first half. This was definitely reflected in the first half score where Butler led UConn 22-19 thanks to a 3 point shot as time expired in the half by Butler’s Shelvin Mack. It was the lowest scoring first half of a national championship game, since 1946.
Coming out of the locker room after halftime, it seemed UConn made all of the necessary adjustments to win the game. Starting with their team defense, Connecticut accumulated 10 blocks and 4 steals holding Butler’s biggest stars Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack to a combined 4 for 27 in shooting. Butler didn’t find the basket until almost 14 minutes into the second half, which pretty much summed up their dismal night of shooting. UConn on the other hand started to pull away and around the 10 minute mark in the second half gained an overwhelming 11 point lead, which would be hard to make up given the intense and sloppy nature of the game.
UConn finished the night with 11 turnovers and shot 19 for 55 while Butler shot an NCAA basketball championship worst 18.8% from the field their shots simply weren’t falling. It’s hard to win any game shooting that poorly, and it was a sour way for Butler to end their dream season. Nobody could have predicted that Butler would have returned to the National Championship game after losing their best player to the NBA last year, but with staunch defense and team play, they did.
Kemba Walker, who was voted the tournament’s most outstanding player, led the Huskies in scoring with 16 points and was aided by strong performances from Jeremy Lamb with 12 points and Alex Oriakhi with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. With the victory Coach Jim Calhoun becomes the oldest coach to win the NCAA championship, at age 68 and earns his third championship. UConn also capped their season with an amazing 11 game win streak over 27 days and went 14-0 in tournament play this season, beginning with the Maui Invitational in the fall, Big East tournament last month and the NCAA tournament most recently.
Sloppy play and all, UConn stayed the course and demonstrated to the world just how resilient the human body can be. Many people were counting on fatigue to eventually set it for the Huskies, especially for Walker who played at least 32-35 minutes every game! He didn’t have his best performance, but in the end, it didn’t matter. The team pulled through and outscored Butler 26-2 in the paint, to secure the victory. A win is a win, no matter by what means and last night was the Huskies who bested the Bulldogs for best in show.