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National champions again: Huskies dominate Purdue

The UConn men’s basketball team won their second consecutive national title on Monday night with a win over Purdue. (Photo courtesy UConn Athletics)

Ever since Jim Calhoun stepped foot on the Storrs campus at the University of Connecticut, the Huskies have been known for tough, hard-nosed defense.

It helped Calhoun lead the Huskies to three national championships, beginning in 1999.

That defensive mentality didn’t faded away with Kevin Ollie or his replacement Dan Hurley. It’s tougher than ever and this year’s Huskies also had a quartet of players who had the speed and skill to create their own shots and them drain them.

The Huskies became the first team since Florida in 2006-07 to win consecutive NCAA men’s basketball championships on Monday night with a 75-60 win over Purdue at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

At a school that has won six national titles since 1999, Hurley became the first men’s basketball coach to win consecutive championships.

UConn (37-3) has now won 12 consecutive tournament games by 13 points or more – a dominating achievement. The next closest team to this record has six wins.

Tristan Newtown, the tournament’s most outstanding player, led the way with 20 points, five rebounds and a team-high seven assists. Four Huskies were in double figures with Stephon Castle scoring 15 points and Cam Spencer and Donovan Clingan with 11 points each.

Purdue’s Zach Edey, the 7-foot-4 center, had 37 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks but received little assistance from his teammates. Edey was 15-of-25 from the floor while his Purdue teammates were a combined 10-of-29 for 23 points. The Boilermakers made just one three-point shot in the game.

The game was tied eight times in the first half but the Huskies used a 9-0 run over a span of 3:44 to get their first significant lead of the game at 32-25 with 3:28 remaining in the first half. Clingan had five points in the run that included Newtown taking a great feed from Castle and driving to the basket and Castle sinking a floater in the lane.

Purdue (34-5) cut the lead to two but Newton sank a jumper in the lane with 1:58 remaining and Castle tipping in a shot in the basket with 47 seconds left for a 36-30 lead at the half.

Right out of the gate in the second half, the Huskies showed that they were in command. At one end of the floor, Clingan tied by Edey and pulled down the rebound. Newtown drained a three-point shot for a nine-point lead, 39-30.

Edey missed his first two shots of the second half thanks to Clingan.

Leading by seven, 41-34, the Huskies went on a 10-4 run to put the pressure on Purdue. Samson Johnson had back-to-back slam dunks off nice feeds from Newton. Castle grabbed an offensive rebound and scored and Spencer scored with a drive to the basket.

Newton gave the Huskies a 51-38 lead when he got his underhand shot past Edey. The Boilermakers were never closer than nine points the rest of the evening.

NOTES: After reaching its first Final Four in 44 years (1980), Purdue played in its first National Championship game since 1969. In that game, Lew Alcindor and UCLA topped Rick Mount and the Boilermakers. Alcindor had 37 points while Mount had 28 in the loss.

UConn and Purdue had the most wins in the nation this season.

Purdue was 27-0 this season with 13 or fewer turnovers. They made nine in Monday night’s loss to the Huskies.


Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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