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Notes & Quotes: UConn did it
The Huskies didn't have their best performance but it was still enough to win the national championship game by 17 points.
Dan Hurley warned us two years ago: “It’s coming.”
On Monday night, ‘it’ arrived, perhaps a little bit earlier than most UConn fans expected as the Huskies capped off a remarkable postseason run with their fifth national title in 24 years.
Adama Sanogo claimed Final Four MOP honors after scoring 17 points with 10 rebounds as the Huskies defeated San Diego State with little difficulty in Houston’s NRG Stadium. They won all six tournament games by double figures as they captured the program’s first title since 2014.
Tristen Newton notched a team-high 19 points with 10 rebounds while Jordan Hawkins added 16 for the Huskies (31-8). Keshad Johnson scored 14 points to lead the Aztecs (32-7), who hung around early but aside from a brief moment in the second half where SDSU was within five UConn was in control.
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What Went Well
Leaders Leading: Sanogo, Hawkins, and Andre Jackson have been the core throughout this championship run. Sanogo averaged 19.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in six games. Jackson was the only player in the tournament to collect more than 30 each in points, rebounds, and assists. Meanwhile, Hawkins scored 44 points in the two Las Vegas games and had at least 12 points in the other four.
Dan Hurley: “I'm just mostly proud of the way we've done it and with the type of people that we've done it, the way we recruit young players, develop young players…it's truly been building a program and a culture. I'm lucky I have the best coaching staff in the country that attracts these incredible types of players.”
Newton Shines: Newton has been an unsung hero for the Huskies all season. He led the team in assists and was third in scoring (10.1 ppg) and become the first UConn player to notch two triple-doubles in a season. He was the Huskies’ top scorer in the national championship game with 19 points along with 10 rebounds and four assists.
Hurley: “We looked at our team and we knew it was all about Tristen Newton. If the point guard play could be excellent that we had with the shooting, the centers, and Andre Jackson’s all-around abilities, we could have a special season.”
Tristen Newton: “Before the game started, my coaches told me I need to be aggressive and look to this quarter to win the game.”
A Dominant Team: The Huskies took the lead for good after a Sanogo bucket made it 12-10 with 13:55 left in the first half. In six NCAA Tournament games, UConn trailed for about 22 minutes in the six games combined.
Hawkins: “That says a lot about this team. We’re such a connected team even when they went on a little run we stayed connected and didn’t point any fingers or nothing. We were just so into it together and knew we were going to come out with the win.”
Busy Being Dudes: After UConn’s top three scorers (Newton, Sanogo, Jackson) four players scored four or more points including six each from Joey Calcaterra and Nahiem Alleyne. As has been the trend all season, many people contribute to the team being such a dominant one.
What Needs Work
Little Things: UConn didn’t play its best game, but still won by 17. The Huskies turned the ball over slightly more 13-12 led by five from Newton. Hurley was able to laugh about Jordan Hawkins’ missed dunk early in the second half but he did feel like the Huskies should have been up more at that point and maybe didn’t take enough advantage of their own hot shooting and defensive success.
Hurley: “I'm still thinking about some things…the amount of missed layups. Jordan's dunk to start -- we should have been up 18, 20 at halftime. That's just really the way my mind works.
UConn became the first team since the NCAA Tournament’s 1985 expansion to win all six games by double-digits. They won by an average of 20 ppg, which was just a fraction shy of North Carolina’s run in 2009. … UConn is 10-1 all-time in the Final Four. … The last three UConn championships were all won in the state of Texas and also won by three different coaches (Calhoun, Ollie, Hurley) and, in a way, three different leagues, too.
An interesting offseason, who stays, who goes? UConn is at or near the top of many “too-early” Top 25 lists for next year, what do you think?