NCAA championship: UConn wins third national title
NCAA championship ends in disappointment for second year for Butler. UConn beat the Indiana underdog 53-41, making it UConn's third national title.
The only thing that could stop Kemba Walker and Connecticut's amazing run was the final buzzer.Skip to next paragraph
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On a night when the massive arena felt like a dusty old gym, UConn made Butler look like the underdog it really was, winning the national championship Monday night with an old-fashioned, grinding 53-41 beatdown of the Bulldogs.
Walker finished with 16 points for the Huskies (32-9), who won their 11th straight game since closing the regular season with a 9-9 Big East record that foreshadowed none of this.
They closed it out with a defensive showing for the ages, holding Butler to a 12-for-64 shooting. That's 18.8 percent, the worst ever in a title game, which made for an ugly overall night but turned into the kind of game a grizzled old coach like Jim Calhoun could love.
"It may be the happiest moment of my life," Calhoun said.
Calhoun designed this win by accepting the reality that the rim was about as wide as a pancake on a defensive-minded night in Houston, by making his players pound the ball inside and insisting on the kind of defense that UConn played during this remarkable run, but which often got overshadowed by Walker's theatrics.
"The halftime speech was rather interesting," Calhoun said. "The adjustment was we were going to out-will them and outwork them."
Connecticut outscored Butler by an amazing 26-2 in the paint. The Bulldogs (28-10), in their second straight title game and hoping to put the closing chapter on the ultimate "Hoosiers" story, went a mind-numbing 13 minutes, 26 seconds in the second half making only one field goal.
During that time, a 25-19 lead turned into a 41-28 deficit. This for a team that never trailed Duke by more than six during last year's epic final.
That time, Gordon Hayward's desperation halfcourt heave bounced off the backboard and rim, barely missing. This time, UConn was celebrating before the buzzer sounded, Calhoun pumping his fists and hugging an assistant while the Huskies ran to the sideline and soaked in the confetti.