UConn keeps San Diego State at bay to win the fifth national title since 1999
In the past 25 years, UConn has won five national men’s basketball titles.
In the first half, the Huskies capitalised on a scoring slump by San Diego State to jump out to a commanding lead. They maintained that lead throughout the second half to win the national championship game on Monday night, 76-59. Coach Dan Hurley of UConn has never won a championship, and it is the school’s first since 2014.
For the Huskies, Tristen Newton scored 19 points, Adama Sanogo added 17 points, and Jordan Hawkins added 16. Sanogo finished the competition with a third double-double and 10 rebounds, earning him the title of Most Outstanding Player.
Prior to the first TV timeout, San Diego State had gone out to an early lead and was leading 10-8. From that point on, things got even worse for the Aztecs as they went almost 11 minutes without making a field goal before Darrion Trammell’s lane shot with 5:25 left in the half trimmed UConn’s lead to nine, at 26-17.
UConn Huskies defeat San Diego State
It was quite clear how fortunate San Diego State was to be behind by just 12 points at the break. Throughout the first 20 minutes, the Aztecs had a 29% field goal percentage, eight field goals, and nine turnovers. With how the game had gone for the Aztecs, even Hurley acknowledged in his halftime interview on CBS that UConn should have been leading by 20 at the break.
The length of Sanogo, Donovan Clingan, and the rest of the team vexed the Aztecs close to the rim early on in the game, highlighting UConn’s edge in the interior.
When the selection committee began placing teams in 1985, the Huskies are just the second No. 4 seed to win the NCAA tournament. Prior to Monday night, Arizona was the first and only No. 4 team to win the championship.
In the West region, UConn (31-8) was likely underseeded at No. 4, but the team excelled throughout the competition. With a comfortable 13-point victory over Miami on Saturday to advance to the championship game, UConn experienced its narrowest margin of victory of the entire tournament.
A difficult Big East stretch at the start of 2023 caused the Huskies to be placed outside the top 12 overall. After ending a three-game losing run on January 22, UConn lost again, making it five losses in a row from December 31 to January 18.
“We knew the level we could play at, even in those dark times,” Hurley said after the game.
Since UConn won the championship in 2011 after losing nine Big East games, no winner has had as many conference defeats as UConn, who lost all eight of their games to Big East opponents.
The Aztecs stayed in the game despite being down by double digits for the majority of the second half. They kept seeing glimmers of hope as UConn was unable to turn the game into a rout and even managed to decrease the margin to six with 7:40 left in the game after going on a 9-0 run, and to five with just over five minutes left.
As SDSU (32-7) reduced the lead to five, Hawkins answered with a 3-pointer from beyond the arc.
Had San Diego State been successful in mounting a comeback against the Huskies, it wouldn’t have come as a complete shock. After all, this is the same SDSU team that required comeback victories against Alabama and Creighton the previous weekend after falling behind by 14 points to Florida Atlantic on Saturday before winning on Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beating shot.
But, neither UConn nor the Aztecs ever had the impression that they could have gone much further than they did. As SDSU was called for seven quick fouls in the first few minutes of the second half, the Huskies always had an answer for them and spent the most of the second half in the bonus.
The Aztecs’ demise began with Hawkins’ 3 as well. It was the beginning of a 9-0 run in the dying seconds that restored the Huskies’ advantage to double digits and ended any hope of yet another comeback by SDSU.
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