The UConn Huskies grabbed an early led and hung on for dear life, beating Kentucky 60-54 to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship Monday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Shabazz Napier led Kevin Ollie’s team with 22 points while Ryan Boatright added 14.
The moment was made even bigger for the Huskies because they were banned from last year’s tournament over academic issues that led to five players leaving the program.
Those who hung around got the biggest reward possible Monday night.
"It's unbelievable because those guys, my players, stayed with the program," coach Kevin Ollie said after the game.
Napier chimed in while addressing the massive crowd after the game. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when you banned us,” he said smiling.
UConn built as much as a 15 point lead and never trailed but things did get tight in the second half.
The Wildcats were within a single point with less than ten minutes to play when a three pointer from Aaron Harrison rimmed out. That was the last gasp for Kentucky.
For KU coach John Calipari it was almost Déjà vu. In 2008, coach Cal’s Memphis team missed free throw after free throw down the stretch in an eventual overtime loss to Kansas in the title game.
Monday night in North Texas the Cats went 13-24 from the line while Connecticut knocked down 10-10.