The one shining moment could only belong to one college basketball dynasty on Monday night as the Kentucky Wildcats and the UConn Huskies met on a collision course in North Texas as the two power-houses battled for the right to cut down the nets.
Despite how Kentucky seemed to be destined to redeem to title of the “Fab Five” by doing what the 1991 Michigan Wolverines never did, it was Connecticut who concluded its magical run to the title with a 60-54 victory over the Wildcats.
Early on, the game resembled all of Kentucky’s previous tournament games. The Wildcats fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, yet managed to only trail the Huskies 35-31 at the half.
Kentucky fans were confident despite the first half futility due to the fact that the Wildcats have won each of their previous four games after not holding a halftime lead.
The teams alternated baskets for most of the early going in the second half until the Huskies opened up 48-39 lead after a Shabazz Napier jumper. But as we have seen time and time again, the Wildcats do not know how to quit. An emphatic James Young dunk over two Husky defenders immediately reenergized the pro-Kentucky crowd.
The Huskies were stuck on 48 points for almost four minutes as Kentucky continued to claw its way back into the game until Napier took the matter into his own hands as the senior drained a clutch three-pointer then assisted on a Niels Giffey three-pointer on the next possession to break the will of the Wildcats.
Napier finished his final college basketball game with 22 points, six rebounds, and three assists. James Young paced Kentucky with 20 points of his own and pulled in seven rebounds.
Napier, who was rightfully named the Final Four’s most outstanding player, caps off one of the best college basketball careers anyone can ask for. The NBA-bound star won a championship with UConn during his freshman year back in the Kemba Walker era and now relives the old days as his team’s leader.
The Huskies played as well as any team could play in a championship game situation. They outplayed the Wildcats in almost every facet of the game, especially on the boards. Kevin Ollie’s team out-rebounded the best offensive rebounding team in the country, which is no small feat when you look at the athletes that make up the Wildcats’ roster.
Ollie became just the twelfth coach to ever win a championship at their alma mater, coming in just his second season at the helm.
The Huskies kept the Wildcats below them on the scoreboard for all 40 minutes, which is a pretty effective formula for winning. Another sure-fire formula for winning: making all of your free-throws, which is exactly what the Huskies did.
UConn officially declared itself as the college basketball dynasty of today, after winning their fourth championship since 1999 and their second in four years.
Connecticut has given itself a reputation of beating their opponents consistently. UConn, who was the last team to beat Florida in the regular season, sent the Gators home early in the Final Four. Also, Kentucky has not lost an NCAA tournament game since 2011 when they lost to, you guessed it, the Huskies. It is safe to say that UConn is not out to make friends with anyone.
UConn remains undefeated in national championship games and becomes the first ever 7-seed to win it all. They did all of this despite losing by 33 points to Louisville in the regular season (the most ever by an eventual champion) and not winning their conference tournament or regular season title, which was last accomplished by Arizona in 1997 (ESPN Stats and Info).
As epic finale of one of the single greatest sporting events during the year took its course, fans and analysts were still perplexed as to how such an unexpected match-up came about. However, as we learn year in and year out, it is not about who reaches the top of the mountain, but it is how they got there. Years from now, college basketball fans everywhere can appreciate the greatness of each of these teams’ routes to the top and how they proved that anything is possible in March.