UConn dominates Purdue to make March Madness history as repeat champion

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was 2007 all over again.

The best player stood no chance against the team in search of history.

That year, Florida completed back-to-back national championship runs by getting the better of Ohio State and Greg Oden.

Monday night, Connecticut joined those Gators as the only teams to repeat this century.

UConn became the second program to repeat as March Madness champions this century. AP
Zach Edey walks off the court after Purdue lost to UConn in the national championship. Getty Images

It did so in more impressive fashion: With three new starters and by treating this NCAA Tournament like a series of scrimmages.

Purdue and Zach Edey hung with the overall top seed for a half, but the Big Ten champion had no chance when coach Dan Hurley’s team turned up the intensity.

The Boilermakers didn’t have that extra gear.

The game was out of hand midway through the second half, UConn cruising to its sixth national championship, 75-60, in front of 74,423 at State Farm Stadium.

UConn secured its second consecutive championship with a win Monday against Purdue. AP

In beating all six of their opponents in the tournament by double figures, by an average of 23.3 points, the Huskies matched last season’s impressively dominant run, and gave the Big East a champion for the fourth time in eight years.

“I think this is up there with one of the best two-year runs any program has ever had,” Hurley said. “I can’t say anything about Duke, because that’ll piss my brother off. … To me it is more impressive than what Florida and Duke did because they brought back their entire teams. We lost some major players.”

Hurley, the former high school coach at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark and the son of legendary coach Bob Hurley Sr., becomes the third active coach with multiple titles — Rick Pitino of St. John’s and Bill Self of Kansas are the others.

In nine postseason games, Connecticut won by single digits once, over St. John’s in the Big East Tournament semifinals.

Tristen Newton received the Most Outstanding Player award following UConn’s win Monday. Getty Images

Edey started fast, but ran out of gas.

The repeat National Player of the Year finished with 37 points on 25 shots, but most of it was hollow.

When UConn took over early in the second half, he was quiet, slowed down by Donovan Clingan.

“I’ve just got to play better,” Edey said. “This is one of those games where I can’t go through stretches where I’m not effective. I had a few of those stretches today, and that was the game.”

Dan Hurley celebrates during UConn’s win over Purdue on Monday. AP
Tristen Newton led UConn with 20 points in their win Monday. Getty Images

The Connecticut (37-3) guards, meanwhile, only got better as the game went on, having their way with their slower, smaller and less athletic Boilermaker counterparts.

It was a mismatch in the backcourt, future NBA players against nice college guards.

The UConn trio of Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer and Stephon Castle outscored Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith and Lance Jones, 46-17, overpowering them with length and explosion.

Newton was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after producing 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds in his final college game.

Zach Edey led Purdue in scoring during the Boilermakers’ loss in the championship. AP

UConn’s game plan was to let Edey get his by allowing Clingan to defend him one-on-one and limit everyone else.

The Huskies held Purdue (34-5), the nation’s second-best 3-point shooting team, to just one made 3-pointer in seven tries.

“We’ve played against athletes, played against some really good defensive guys this year and in the tournament, but not the collection of defensive players like UConn has,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We play against somebody, they would have a lockdown defender. These guys are bringing lockdown defenders off the bench.”

The first half felt similar to Saturday, in which Alabama played its “A” game, did everything right and still trailed at the break.

Purdue dictated pace, limited turnovers and Edey played well.

It still was behind by six at the break, and Connecticut distanced itself after the intermission.

Providing a change of pace to Clingan, Samson Johnson scored on consecutive alley-oop dunks, extending the lead to 13.

After Edey answered with four straight points, Connecticut punched back, with consecutive baskets from Spencer and Newton.

It was still a 13-point lead and 11:31 remained in the college basketball season.

UConn extended its lead in the second half against Purdue. AP

But, really, it was no longer in doubt.

Connecticut fans, outnumbered and outshouted for most of the evening, were making their voices heard.

With 36 seconds left, Hurley emptied the bench, inserting his son, Andrew, into the game.

For the 12th time in the last two years, Andrew got to dribble out the clock of an NCAA Tournament game.

Hurley hugged his starters and waved his arms for the Huskies fans to get louder.

The college basketball world had repeat champions for the first time in 17 years — and Connecticut made it look easy.

But the super-intense Hurley didn’t sound completely satisfied — he planned to break down next year’s roster on the flight home.

“S–t, we’re going to try to replicate it again,” he said. “I don’t think that we’re going anywhere.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *