The University of Connecticut Huskies defeated the Kentucky Wildcats, 60-54, in the national championship game in Arlington, TX, on Monday night.
Monday's win is the fourth national title for the Huskies and second in three years. The Huskies won previous titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011 and are undefeated in the national championship games, 4-0.
Huskies point guard Shabazz Napier had 22 points while guard Ryan Boatright has 14 points. Niels Giffey had 10 points and DeAndre Daniels had eight points.
At one point during the first half, the Huskies were up 30-15 on the Wildcats, which was the most Kentucky had been down all tournament.
But the Wildcats battled back and changed to a zone defense and cut the Huskies' lead to four points. UConn led Kentucky 35-31 at halftime.
Boatright appeared to roll his ankle about nine minutes left in the game. Kentucky had cut the lead to 48-45 at that time.
And with eight minutes left, the UConn was lead was only one point. The Huskies had missed five baskets in a row during that stretch.
However, the Huskies hanged tough and were perfect from the free throw line. Though the Wildcats got close, the Huskies never trailed in the game.
UConn is the first seventh seed to ever make national championship game and this year is the only time that the Huskies have been a seventh seed.
In 2004, both the UConn men and women brought home national titles, a feat no other school had accomplished. Now UConn is just one win away from pulling off the impressive double once again.
To advance to the national championship game, the Huskies defeated the Florida Gators 63-53 on April 5. UConn beat the Michigan State Spartans 60-54 in the Elite Eight on March 30.
The Huskies beat Iowa State 81-76 in the Sweet Sixteen on March 28. UConn defeated Villanova 77-65 in the round of 32 on March 22, and St. Joe's in overtime 89-81 during the first round of the tournament on March 20.
Huskies poised for another title shot
The Storrs campus was abuzz with morning pep rallies and late night celebrations.
Thousands of students passing UConn's student union Monday saw a table from the school's student council that had one question: "What was your favorite UConn memory?"
Seniors said the 2014 men's team's improbable run has been twice as nice because they remembered the 2011 championship sparked by now-NBA player Kemba Walker.
"Just to have this college pride," said Byron Bunda, a UConn senior. "I think it's something that will stay with me."
Bunda was a freshman when the Huskies took home the title three years ago. He said it's a memory he'll never forget.
"I could hear this collective scream, and just looking down seeing this exodus out of the building," he said.
For senior Steven Krzynowek, that championship was bittersweet. He said he was a member of the pep band. He was on the flight to Houston but it was overbooked.
"By one," he said. "And I was the last one."
Being a freshman, he said he was bumped.
"I was feeling terrible," said Krzynowek. "I was feeling so bad."
UConn hosted a watch party for the game at Gampel Pavilion. However, by 8:15 p.m., the arena was at capacity.
"The championship viewing party at Gampel Pavilion is now a full house - we're at our capacity of roughly 10,100," a UConn spokesman, Tom Breen, told Eyewitness News.
No more people would be allowed to attend Gampel Pavilion on Monday night.
When the announcement was made by UConn officials, hundreds of fans were standing outside Gampel Pavilion in the rain. Eyewitness News saw many people crying.
Students, faculty and staff were encouraged to wear blue and white in support of the Huskies.
A letter by UConn President Susan Herbst and basketball coaches Ollie and Geno Auriemma was sent to students in which they were asked to act "responsibly."
"We hope both games will end in celebrations on our campuses this weekend and beyond - but if you celebrate, please do so responsibly. Don't let an amazing moment like a UConn victory be tarnished by doing something destructive," the letter stated.
State and UConn police are expected to be on campus Monday and "operating much as they did on Saturday."
They said there would be an extra presence. They also said parts of Hillside Road would be closed to traffic because students would likely fill the area for a potential celebration.
"If we get that win, this will be straight pandemonium along this whole stretch," said Tyrell Ranger, a UConn senior.
"We're trying to do a couple of safety precautions to make sure everyone has a good time tonight without getting hurt and hopefully, it's because of a win," said Bob Waters, a UConn Facilities employee.
UConn women prepare for national championship matchup
After defeating Stanford 75-56 on Sunday night, the UConn women will face archival Notre Dame on Tuesday night. Both teams are undefeated.
UConn and Notre Dame play Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
The Student Union Theatre will be open for students at 8 p.m. Tuesday so they can view the women's game.
Copyright 2014 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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