Robert Stephens, Featured Writer
Huskies strap up for chip.
April 10, 2014 - It was a game that featured more story lines than a Pulitzer
Prize novel. U-Conn who was barred from
participating in all post season play last year because of
academic issues. A number 7 seed led by two diminutive
guards at 6’1 and 6’ small by BCS standards (Kentucky’s)
starting backcourt was the 6’6 Harrison twins). A second
year coach in Kevin Ollie who almost didn’t take the job
had made the finals in his second year. The Huskies did not
win their regular season conference (AAC) or their post
season tournament. No team since Arizona since 1997 had
accomplished the feat of winning a NCAA title without
winning one of the two. U-Conn had entered the NCAA
tournament seeded 7th.
On the opposing side stood Don John Calapari and
his roster of young future NBA players. The master of the
so called one and done which had given the coach his
first NCAA title. Calapari’s ability to stock his roster with
the cream of the high school crop had added to the list of
distractors as well as his army of supporters that claim
He’s only playing by the rules. Kentucky entered the
tournament as a number 8 seed escaping a number of
close calls as his freshmen dominated roster grew up
before the nation’s eyes.
A year ago while U-Conn was sitting at home with
their academic issues, Kentucky suffered a first round in
the NIT and now they were about to meet before a record
crowd of 79,238 at AT&Tstadium for the 2014 title.
And the guards shall lead them.
The Huskies with a relentless defensive pressure led
by their guards Shabazz Napier (Final 4 MVP) and Ryan
Boatwright forced Kentucky into 13 turnovers while
stifling the Wildcat offense.
U-Conn led from start to finish with the exception
of a 2-2 tie with 18:16 remaining in the first half. The
Huskie’s rushed out to a 17-8 lead with 13:10 remaining in
the first half.
Kentucky came storming back to close the gap to
35-31 at the half. The Wildcats went from their man to man
defense to a zone which game the Huskies problems
forcing them into several turnovers.
The second half proved to be a game of runs with
the Huskies always maintaining their lead however so
U-Conn received stability from GW graduate transfer
Lasan Kromah and freshmen guard Terrance Samuel with
their ball handling and rebounding. Kromah tied with
De’Andre Daniels and Napier grabbing 6 rebounds in 20
minutes of play.
The second half was a carbon copy of the first half with
both teams having runs but the Huskies were always up to the task stifling
the Wildcats offense when needed.
Shabazz Napier led U-Conn with 22pts, 6rebs, 3 steals,
and 3 assist. Ryan Boatwright finished with 14pts, 4 rebs, 3 steals, and
3 assist. Niels Griffey one of three seniors left from the 2011 championship
added 10pts, 5 rebs, and 1 blk.
De’Andre Daniels chipped in with 8pts, 8rebs, and 2 blks. Lasan
Kromah ended his career with 4pts, 2 assist, and one steal. Kromah hit
2 big free throws with 25.1 seconds to seal the win. Amida Brimah grabbed
4 rebs, and 1blk. The 7’Brimah provided a change of pace in the
Huskies defense and when he learns how to play the game will be a major
force in the middle in the future.
The final score U-Conn 60-Kentucky 54.
The Huskies (32-8) defeated St. Joseph’s 89-81 (OT),
Villanova 77-65, Iowa State 81-76, Michigan State 60-54 and Florida 60-54
to reach the final.
Kentucky (29-11) was led by James Young 20pts, and
7 rebounds. Julius Randle chipped in with 10pts, 6 rebs, and
4 assist. Andrew Harrison added 8 points, 5rebs, and 5 assist.
Coach Calapari had the quote of the night on Westwood
One radio after the Wildcat lost.
“At the half I thought we had them right where we wanted them.
They never went away.”
Kentucky had been named “king of the comeback”
after several close calls and buzzer beaters, but not this night.
This was the night of the Huskies !
The final coaches poll featured this top 10.
1. Connecticut Huskies (AAC) 32-8
2. Kentucky Wildcats (SEC) 29-11
3. Florida Gators (SEC) 36-3
4. Wisconsin (BIG-10) 30-8
5. Arizona Wildcats (PAC-12) 33-5
6. Michigan (BIG-10) 28-9
7. Wichita State (Mo.Valley) 35-1
8. Michigan State (BIG-10) 29-9
9. Louisville (AAC) 31-6
10. Virginia (ACC) 30-7
The top 25 conference breakdown.
ACC-4 AAC-3 SEC-3 BIG-10-3 PAC-12-3
BIG- 8-3 BIG-EAST-2 ATLANTIC-10-2
MOUNTAIN WEST-1 MISSOURI VALLEY-1
NOTE: Next year Louisville will join the ACC which would
give them 5 entrees.