UConn easily beats Miami to qualify for Final Four title: NPR
David J. Phillip/AP
HOUSTON — No one was keeping UConn’s best player. Adama Sanogo therefore rotated the ball to place his fingers well, placed his feet behind the 3-point line and splashed the shot. Then, less than a minute later, he did it again.
It was as much a basketball clinic as it was a video highlight – and it all suited the Huskies, who methodically run through a March Madness bracket that has been free play everywhere else.
UConn dished out another drama-free beatdown Saturday, picking up 21 points and 10 rebounds from Sanogo to send Miami 72-59 and displace a victory of the school’s fifth national title.
“There are a lot of teams that want to play on Monday,” Sanogo said. “It means a lot to us.”
Jordan Hawkins overcame his stomach ache and scored 13 for the Huskies, who entered this most unexpected Final Four as the only team with last weekend college basketball experience and with the highest ranking. of the four teams in Houston – at No. 4.
Against fifth-seeded Miami, they were the best team on the court from start to finish. Starting with three straight 3s — a jumper from Hawkins and two of those set pieces from Sanogo — UConn took an early 9-0 lead and never trailed.
“It’s something I’ve been working on all summer, especially filming,” Sanogo said.
In the title game on Monday, the Huskies will face San Diego State, who became the first team to hit a buzzer as they trailed in a Final Four game for a 72-71 win. on Florida Atlantic. UConn was an early favorite by 7 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said of the Aztecs. “And I think it’s only fitting that we both earned our place in this title match.”
But while the start of the game was a record, the nightcap was just more of the same from the Huskies (30-8).
The 13-point win was UConn’s closest since coming out of the brackets. The Huskies are the sixth team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to reach the title game with five straight double-digit wins. It’s an impressive list of juggernauts with a knack for closure: four of the top five have won the championship.
Some thought Miami (29-8), with the nation’s fifth-leading offense and four players who have scored 20 points at least three times this season, might be the team to slow down this Huskies juggernaut. Not to be.
Isaiah Wong led the ‘Canes with 15 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Constantly harassed by Sanogo, 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan and the rest of Connecticut’s long, Miami perimeter players, who arrived with the fifth-best offense in the nation, shot 25% in the first half and 33.3% for the game.
“Obviously what we tried to do didn’t just work, I couldn’t even recognize it,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “Offensively we were out of sync, but defensively we were too.”
Not that UConn was boring. The Huskies enjoyed their own kind of buzzer-beater in the form of an Alex Karaban 3 that sent the Huskies jogging into the locker room with a 13-point halftime lead.
They built it at 20 before the first television timeout of the second half. By then, Jim Nantz, calling his final Final Four, could start saving his voice for Monday.
Miami got it in double digits a few times, but it never got interesting.
Not helping: Hurricanes guard Nijel Pack missed about five minutes after managers struggled to find a replacement for a broken shoe. Pack finished with eight points and Jordan Miller, who had all 20 shots he fired from the floor and the line in Miami’s Elite Eight win, went 4-for-10 for 11 points. Only one Miami player has made more than half of his shots.
“I’m primarily a defensive guy,” Hurley said. “I love how we protected them. It’s one of the best attacks in the country and we really disrupted them.”
UConn had five blocks, including two from Sanogo, and 19 assists, led by eight from Tristen Newton — two signs of the kind of all-around effort the Huskies have been putting in since early February, when they started rebounding from a streak of six defeats in eight games that stopped their momentum.
This cold spell is one of the main reasons they were only ranked fourth in March. Now it’s April and the number UConn thinks of is “5” – as in, a fifth title that will come if it can go on for one more game.
“Maybe it was a little crazy,” Huskies guard Andre Jackson Jr. said, “but we always knew we were the best team in our minds.”