UConn rolls past SDSU for fifth NCAA title since '99
Field Level Media
Apr 3, 2023
HOUSTON -- UConn twice appeared on the verge of landing the knockout blow on Monday, but San Diego State would not fall, more a testament to the Aztecs' resilience than a reflection of what the Huskies lacked when opportunity knocked.
Undaunted by their inability to deliver the haymaker, the Huskies opted for a series of jabs.
Adama Sanogo and Tristen Newton recorded double-doubles and Jordan Hawkins nailed a critical 3-pointer down the stretch of the second half as UConn claimed its fifth NCAA Tournament championship by defeating San Diego State 76-59.
Sanogo, named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, paired 17 points with 10 rebounds while Newton overcame five turnovers to tally 19 points and 10 rebounds as the fourth-seeded Huskies (31-8) earned their first national title since 2014.
Hawkins added 16 points for UConn, which finished 17-0 against nonconference opponents. The Huskies utilized brilliant free-throw shooting in the second half to finally suppress the fifth-seeded Aztecs (32-7), who trailed by 15 points with 9:50 left to play before clawing within five.
"Coming into the game we knew San Diego State was a good team," Sanogo said. "We were not surprised about their run. We knew they could make a run. We took a timeout and wanted to make sure they didn't do the same thing again."
UConn converted 21 of 23 shots from the charity stripe in the second half to fend off the grizzled Aztecs, who closed to within 60-55 on a pair of Keshad Johnson free throws with 5:19 left.
Johnson paced the Aztecs with 14 points. Lamont Butler and Darrion Trammell had 13 apiece.
The first 10 minutes of the second half was a foul-plagued slog, and the Huskies were in the bonus with 13:04 remaining in the game. UConn was unable to pull away but appeared on the brink of doing so when Joey Calcaterra stroked a 3-pointer for a 56-41 lead at the 9:50 mark.
"They're the best offensive rebound team in the country," Aztecs senior guard Adam Seiko said of UConn. "We've been harping on that all week. We did our best to hit them and try and secure rebounds, but then we also got in a little foul trouble earlier in the half. Thirteen-minute mark, they're already in the bonus, which was tough."
The Aztecs fashioned one last hurrah, utilizing a 9-0 run to slice the deficit to six points with 7:40 left to play. Houston native Jaedon LeDee scored twice in the paint before Johnson hit a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to single digits for the first time since the 5:07 mark of the first half.
Hawkins replied with his trey after the Aztecs pulled to within five, and the Huskies delivered down the stretch at the line.
It was a gritty effort from San Diego State, but this time the deficit was too great to overcome. In UConn, the Aztecs found a foe they could not track down.
"We battled," Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. "Battled back to five in the second half but gave them too much separation.
"We had to be at our best. We weren't at our best. A lot had to do with UConn."
UConn matched Duke and Indiana for the fourth-most national titles in men's tournament history, trailing only UCLA (11), Kentucky (eight) and North Carolina (six).
The Huskies won all six of their NCAA Tournament games by double figures, becoming the fifth team to accomplish that feat. The others were Michigan State in 2000, Duke in 2001, North Carolina in 2009 and Villanova in 2018. UConn's average margin of victory was 20 points.
"They buried us before the season and then they buried us at the midpoint," Huskies coach Dan Hurley said of critics' comments during a stretch in which UConn lost 6 of 8. "We weren't ranked going into the year, so we had a chip on our shoulder.
"We knew the level that we could play at even through those dark times. When you have a guy like Andre Jackson who's the captain of your team, and Adama Sanogo, it's easy to get back on track."
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