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Saturday, June 10, 2023

UConn defeated San Diego State, 76-59, claiming its 5th national title

HOUSTON – UConn completed one of the most impressive March Madnesses in history Monday night, closing out early and opening late to take home its fifth national title with a 76-59 win over San Diego State.

Adama Sanogo scored 17 points and ten rebounds, and Tristen Newton had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (31-8), who became the fifth team since the 1985 expansion to win all six NCAA tournament games in double figures along the way, towards the championship.

Coach Dan Hurley’s Huskies won six games with an average of 20 points, slightly less than North Carolina when they claimed the 2009 title.

UConn built up a 16-point lead late in the first half, only to see the Aztecs (32-7) cut the lead to five at 5-19. But Jordan Hawkins (16 points) responded with a 3 to start a 9-0 run, and the only drama remaining will be whether UConn closes the 7 1/2 point deficit and goes 6 to 6 in a double-digit win.

UConn set the stage for that in the first half when coach Eric Henderson’s Aztecs missed a field goal. Unable to shoot or get past the big, long UConn team, they missed 14 straight shots from the ground. Keshad Johnson scored 14 points for San Diego State, which was short of a win in its first Final Four appearance.

They’re four to 11 up, and unless they block shots (Alex Karaban has three and Sanogo has one) or turn inside, they’re out of breath – a sign for a team that’s after a grueling 72-71 win over the Florida Atlantic. two nights before.

UConn fan Bill Murray is among the few celebrities to see the Husky win five-on-five in the title game in one of the most unpredictable Final Fours in history. It was the last Jim Nantz to call behind the microphone in 37 years.

He’s got plenty of UConn stories to tell, though this one is definitely not the most dramatic.

Even with a brief bout of uncertainty midway through the second half, UConn never let the Aztecs, who were coming from a 14-point deficit in the semifinals, consider another last-second drama.

That’s a team built just for 2023 – completed by coach Dan Hurley, who heads to the transfer portal to find more shots on the outside after back-to-back first-half exits.

Still, there’s something very old-fashioned about how Huskies did business from the beginning.

They didn’t even think much of a 3-point shot, instead missing Sanogo’s layup at the post and weakening SDSU in their early lead.

The Aztecs were too good a team to fall back, and the overzealous pursuit defense fueled the last five hit streak. Defense-based teams only shoot 32% from the ground.

And when it was over, they started burning, and Hurley and her friends hugged him on the bench before the bell.

UConn’s recent enthronement made Hurley the third coach to take the trophy to Storrs, Connecticut. He joined Jim Calhoun (1999, 2004, 2001) and Kevin Ollie (2014).

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