(ARLINGTON, Texas) — Completing one of the more memorable NCAA Tournament runs in recent history, the seventh-seeded Connecticut Huskies defeated eighth-seeded Kentucky 60-54 on Monday night to win the national championship. It is the second title in four years and fourth overall for UConn.
In a game that featured the highest combined seeds ever, the Huskies never trailed but were rarely comfortably ahead. UConn used an 11-2 run to open up a 17-8 advantage early in the first half on a Ryan Boatright layup. That lead would increase to as many as 15 before Kentucky made a rally. The Wildcats (29-11) closed the half by scoring 16 of the final 21 points, trailing 35-31 at the break.
Kentucky then cut the deficit to just one when Aaron Harrison hit a three-pointer to open the second half. The Wildcats would get no closer though as Connecticut (32-8) found a way to keep Kentucky at arm’s length.
Senior guard Shabazz Napier’s jumper gave UConn a 48-39 lead with 11:02 remaining, their largest of the second half. Over the next three minutes, Kentucky rattled off eight points to again cut the lead down to one, but that would the final threat made. A Napier three snapped a five-minute scoring drought for the Huskies and helped them regain momentum.
Connecticut was able to salt the game away with strong rebounding and impressive free-throw shooting. Trailing by six with 25 seconds remaining, the Wildcats missed two three-point attempts before Boatright pulled in the final board, bringing another national title to Connecticut. In total, the Huskies outrebounded Kentucky 34-33 while going a perfect 10-10 from the charity stripe. The Wildcats were just 13-of-23 from the free throw line.
Napier, who was a freshman when UConn won the national title in 2011, was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring 22 points and collecting six rebounds. James Young led Kentucky with 20 points and seven boards in the loss.
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Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com