words // Nick Engvall
A win is win.
It surely wasn’t pretty, and it surely was far from expectations, but even though the UCONN and Butler matchup had more potential than reality actually had in store, the Huskies are the new NCAA National Champions.
The Huskies shot just 34.5 percent from the field, nearly 10 percent worse than their season average of 43.9 percent. Fortunately for UCONN, the Butler Bulldogs seemed to find nothing but iron and glass, shooting just 18.8 percent in Monday’s championship game. Butler’s typical late game heroics and hustle-hardest approach were nowhere to be found in the second half. Although at one point shortly after halftime, they were 8-44 from the field and still within five points, thanks to UCONN’s 14-42 shooting.
When the teams emerged from the locker rooms after the half, UCONN seemed to have slightly more poise. Big man Alex Oriakhi, who I said needed a double-double for UCONN to win, came through, finishing the game with 11 points on five-for-six shooting and 11 rebounds. Oriakhi was also intimidating the normally scrappy Butler inside game, blocking four shots and changing countless others.
As was expected, Connecticut guard Kemba Walker once again led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds. A teary-eyed Walker, who led the Huskies to a 14-0 record in tournament play this season, was honored after the game with the Most Outstanding Player Award.
The UCONN victory gives the school their third National Title in school history, all under Jim Calhoun, and within the last 12 years.
Now Available: UCONN National Champions Fan Gear
Alex Oriakhi with a two-handed dunk that put it out of reach in the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse.
Kemba Walker, still unbeaten in the Jordan 6-17-23. Lucky shoes?
Matt Howard struggled, going 1-for-14 in the Zoom Hyperfuse.
Niels Giffey with a bucket for UCONN in the Air Max Fly By.
Shelvin Mack, wearing the Zoom Hyperfuse, after hitting an impressive three-pointer as the first half ended.
Jeremy Lamb puts the final touches on Butler with a breakaway dunk in the Zoom Kobe V.