Shabazz Napier ended his collegiate basketball career with 22 points and the Most Outstanding Player award in the Final Four. The senior guard for the Connecticut Huskies helped his team defeat the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 to win the NCAA men’s basketball national championship.
Connecticut was ahead by as much as 15 points during the first half. The Huskies never trailed throughout the game, despite Kentucky rallying three times to cut UConn’s lead to a single point.
The Wildcats had an opportunity to take the lead with eight minutes remaining but the hero of the two previous games, Aaron Harrison, missed a three-point opportunity. Napier then scored his own three that moved UConn ahead by four.
Over the final five minutes of the game, the Wildcats could score just one field goal and the Huskies stayed calm when it mattered the most. Connecticut sank all 10 if free throws, while Kentucky missed 11 of their 24 on the night.
The victory by UConn was the fourth national title for the men’s basketball program and its second in the past four years.
The loss denied John Calipari the Kentucky coach his second national title in three years. Kentucky remains on 8 national titles, the second most all time behind just the 11 held by the UCLA Bruins.
The one and done team of Kentucky was outdone by a team that was more sound fundamentally and more seasoned. The Huskies entered the tournament as an afterthought for most and became the highest seed to win a national title since Villanova won in 1985 behind the coaching of Rollie Massimino.
Connecticut’s head coach Kevin Ollie said former head coach Jim Calhoun was the greatest coach in basketball and paved the way for the team to win the title.
Players for Connecticut said it was all about playing basketball for “your” university and not just moving onto the NBA.
Now the big question hovering over Lexington, Kentucky is what will take place with all the talented freshmen at the school. If Julius Randle were to leave, he would be a sure lottery pick. The Harrison twins could go in the first round, but will they all leave with such a bad taste in their mouths?