June 15th, 2024

UConn wins second straight NCAA title by beating Purdue 75-60

By Eddie Pells, The Associated Press on April 8, 2024.

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) – UConn delivered the latest of its suffocating basketball beatdowns Monday night, smothering Purdue for a 75-60 victory to become the first team since 2007 to capture back-to-back national championships.

Tristen Newton scored 20 points for the Huskies, who won their 12th straight March Madness game – not a single one of them decided by fewer than 13 points.

UConn was efficient on offence but won this with defence. The Huskies (37-3) limited the country’s second-best 3-point shooting team to a mere seven shots behind the arc – Purdue only made one – while happily allowing 7-foot-4 AP Player of the Year Zach Edey of Toronto to go for 37 points on 25 shot attempts.

UConn won its sixth overall title and joined the 2006-07 Florida Gators and the 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils as just the third team to repeat since John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty of the 1960s and ’70s.

Purdue made it this far a year after becoming just the second No. 1 seed in the history of March Madness to fall in the first round. But the Boilermakers (34-5) left the same way they came – still looking for the program’s first NCAA title.

In what was supposed to be a free-for-all in this new age of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness deals, UConn has figured out how to dominate.

The 2024 Huskies are the sixth team to win all six tournament games by double-digit margins. They won those games by a grand total of 140 points, blowing past the previous high of 121 by the 2009 North Carolina team for the highest margin among that exclusive club.

Cam Spencer, a transfer from Rutgers, Stephon Castle, a blue-chip freshman, and Alex Karaban, a sophomore from last year’s team, spent the night guarding the 3-point line and making life miserable for Purdue’s guards.

This was only the second time this season Purdue didn’t put up 10 3-point attempts, and how ’bout this final score: Edey 37, the rest of the Boilermakers 23.

How serious was coach Dan Hurley about defending the perimeter? When Braden Smith wiggled loose for a semi-open look to make Purdue’s first 3 of the game with 2:17 left in the first half, the coach bolted onto the floor and called timeout.

And that was that from behind the arc.

Edey battled gamely, finishing with 10 rebounds to record his 30th double-double of the season. But this game proved the number crunchers right. UConn let Edey back in and back down all night on 7-2 Donovan Clingan, giving up difficult 2s in exchange for any 3s.

Meanwhile, as Edey started wearing down, the Huskies took the ball right at him. Castle finished with 15 points and both Spencer and Clingan had 11, and it barely mattered that UConn made only six 3-pointers, which was right at its season average.

Hurley joins former Florida coach Billy Donovan in the back-to-back club, and is in company with Bill Self and Rick Pitino as only the third active coach with two championships.

Nobody will say the UConn coach didn’t work for this one. In the first half, he begged with, swore at generally berated the refs about over-the-backs, elbows and hip checks that weren’t called.

Once, when that didn’t work after Edey set a hard (and probably legal) pick against Castle, Hurley started in on Edey himself as the centre walked toward the Purdue bench for a timeout.

But the coach’s best work came in whatever hotel room he used to draw up the game plan.

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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