Shabazz Napier leads UCOnn to fourth national title
The Hungry Huskies outdueled the new Fab Five for one of the most unlikely NCAA championship runs in Tournament history.
UConn defeated Kentucky 60-54 for the Huskies’ fourth national championship Monday, as a traditional power won the title in untraditional ways.
UConn started as a No. 7 seed, the lowest-ranked team to win a title since 1985. Kevin Ollie, a coach short on experience, defeated three national championship coaches in three games. And Shabazz Napier, who had a lower recruiting profile than just about anyone he faced Monday, was the best player on the floor for three weeks.
Here’s how the Huskies sealed the championship:
Game MVP: Shabazz Napier, UConn
Napier scored 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting to lead the Huskies. While he wasn’t always sharp, taking ill-advised shots and having his pocket picked at a key moment, Napier helped hold the Harrison twins to 15 points and 6-of-16 shooting.
Telling stat: 54.2. Kentucky’s free throw shooting rate
For the second time in three trips to the national title game, coach John Calipari watched his team struggle at the free throw line. In a game Kentucky lost by 6, the Wildcats have to look at 11 missed free throws as one of the main reasons they lost Monday. The game might not have been close if James Young didn’t go 8-of-9 from the stripe.
How UConn won:
The Huskies answered every time Kentucky attempted to swing momentum. Kentucky closed the first half on a 16-5 run, and UConn needed more than nine minutes to get from the 30-point mark to the 40-point mark. Young ignited Kentucky with a monster dunk, but UConn, despite an ankle injury to Ryan Boatright, eventually stopped the bleeding. With a long 2-pointer by Boatright, UConn took a six-point lead with 4:12 to go, a basket that turned out to be the dagger.
How Kentucky lost:
The free throws hurt, but Kentucky trailed 30-15 to start the game. For a team that thrived so much in close games, Kentucky needed the remainder of the first half and the start of the second just to make the game competitive. Kentucky never led or tied this game after digging itself into an early hole.
Quote to note:
“Ladies and gentlemen, these are the Hungry Huskies. This is what happens when you banned us.”
-Napier with CBS’ Jim Nantz during the trophy presentation.
The NCAA barred UConn from the NCAA Tournament last season due to poor performance in the Academic Progress Rate.
Highlight of the game: