HOUSTON — It took nine long years but the UConn men's basketball team is back on top of the college basketball world, beating San Diego State University 76-59 in the national championship game on Monday night.
This is the Huskies' 5th national championship in the program's history and also the team's fifth in the last 24 years, making it the most of any men's college basketball program in the country. They are now 5-0 in national championship history.
They also kept their streak of beating every single opponent faced in the NCAA Tournament by more than double-digits.
This is also a first for Head Coach Dan Hurley, as the team hadn't made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament during his tenure.
"It feels great to come through on promises made," said Hurley.
Tristen Newton was the Huskies' leading scorer with 19 points, going 8-8 from the free throw line, dishing out four assists and grabbing 10 rebounds for a double-double.
"The vision we had when I came here was to win a national championship," said Newton. "It's truly been building a program, building a culture."
Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins were their normal prolific selves as the big man scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to secure the double-double, and the sharpshooting Hawkins scored 16 points with two huge threes.
There were no early-game jitters from any side to start as the Aztecs and Huskies came out firing in the first five minutes.
San Diego State knocked down two quick three-point shots, one by Keshad Johnson falling away into the corner that made UConn sharpen up. They then countered by committee as four different Huskies scored to keep them in it early.
San Diego State then cooled off and missed ten straight shots allowing UConn to go on a 14-2 run. The Aztecs were forced to call a timeout after a Hawkins layup to stop the bleeding as the Huskies led by eight.
The Aztecs continued to be held by the Huskies' defense without a field goal for over 10 minutes of play, and a Hawkins three-pointer widened their lead to 12 points. They finally were able to snap their cold streak on a Darion Trammell jumper, but Newton and Joey Calcaterra again made it rain from long range to put them up 16.
"Holding them to that stretch was really big for us," said Hawkins.
A couple of jumpers with the clock in the first half ticking down by Trammell and Johnson kept the Aztecs in the game and had the Huskies only ahead by 12 points at the half.
The first half ended with UConn leading 36-24. They shot 50% from the field and shots 37.5% from the three-point range. They held San Diego State to just 28.6% from the field in the first 20 minutes.
The second half began oddly as Hawkins missed a wide-open slam dunk much to his confusion then a missed three-pointer by him that led to a made jumper by Matt Bradley. But Alex Karaban quelled what momentum the Aztecs gained from that sequence with a made three to put them up 13.
The Huskies continued to struggle to get this going from the field in the half but where they gained an advantage was in foul trouble. By the 13-minute mark, San Diego State had eight fouls with Trammell and Nathan Mensah each with three at that point. It allowed them to go 10-11 from the line and keep their big lead in hand.
Calcaterra hit a huge catch and shoot three from the top of the arc to put them up by 15, but Jaedan Ledee hit two back-to-back buckets that kept the Aztecs hanging around only down by 11 with a little over eight minutes remaining.
San Diego State kept on pushing and a steal leading to a fast break by Trammell put them within six points of UConn. Sanogo got a huge tip-in to go to halt their 9-0 run.
"He's obviously cemented himself in the pantheon of greatest big guys," said Hurley on Sanogo. "He's an all-time great."
From this point, both teams would go back and forth with the Huskies not allowing San Diego to get too close to a tie. With just over five remaining, Hawkins hit a three to put them back up eight until a media timeout remaining.
But UConn stood poised and collected in the face of pressure and took advantage of San Diego’s careless fouls as Hawkins and Newton knocked down huge insurance free throws. The Aztecs hot shooting cooled off and the Huskies' lead swelled to the point where the writing was on the wall.
Andrew Hurley, Dan Hurley’s son checked into the game and fittingly dribbled the clock out as Husky fans and players celebrated and jubilation at the realization that they’d capture their 5th trophy in program history.
Daniel Dashefsky is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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