The University of Connecticut Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 and have claimed their fourth NCAA title. UConn previously won national titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011. The veteran squad showed poise and determination throughout the game, mirroring the fire that burned inside them as they battled their way towards redemption. Last year, the team was banned from participating in “March Madness,” also known as the NCAA’s postseason due to issues with players’ grades. Their ban put a damper on the school’s debut in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), after being removed from the Big East.
Both UConn’s experience and hunger proved to be evident throughout the contest. They played solid fundamental basketball and never allowed Kentucky to take the lead. In the end the Huskies leaned on their biggest strength, which was the defensive intensity of their backcourt tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. Both players stuck it out with the program (and the school) following the fallout that ensued after last season’s ban. Their loyalty, hard work and dedication paid off in the end, reaping them and their university the sweetest of fruits, the NCAA title.
Napier led his team once again with a stellar performance, finishing the game with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals. He knocked down four shots from downtown en route to his 22 markers. Boatright added 14 points of his own, which came four boards, three assists and three steals as well. Napier has been a rock for UConn all season and the senior is projected to be one of the top guard prospects in the 2014 NBA draft. His leading his team to a title will arguably the finest feather in his cap as he gets ready to go pro.
While Kentucky’s band of freshmen fought their good fight one glaring statistic that stood out in the teams’ comparison was that the Wildcats missed 11 free-throws in the game (13-24), converting just 54.2% from the line. The Huskies on the other hand were a pristine 10 of 10 from the stripe.
Kentucky’s James Young put up a valiant effort with 20 points and seven rebounds. Unfortunately, Julius Randle proved to be his only solid support as he ended up with 10 points, six boards and four assists.
At the end of the day, the world was treated to a great game by two great teams. UConn still has a solid core and a repeat next season is not out of the question. While the Wildcats, young as they are, will go home, lick their wounds and come back next year hungrier than ever.