NATIONAL NEWS

UConn wins March Madness with 76-59 smothering of SDSU

Apr 3, 2023, 8:41 PM | Updated: 10:30 pm

Connecticut guard Tristen Newton celebrates after scoring against San Diego State during the first ...

Connecticut guard Tristen Newton celebrates after scoring against San Diego State during the first half of the men's national championship college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Monday, April 3, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

HOUSTON (AP) — After six games and 240 minutes of pure dominance that ran through March, then part of April, it finally became clear there was only one thing that could stop the UConn Huskies.

The final buzzer.

The team from Storrs, Connecticut, topped off one of the most impressive March Madness runs in history Monday night, clamping down early, then breaking things open late to bring home its fifth national title with a 76-59 victory over San Diego State.

“We knew we were the best team in the tournament going in, and we just had to play to our level,” said Dan Hurley, who joined Jim Calhoun and Kevin Ollie as the third coach to lead UConn to a title.

UConn’s lanky star forward, Adama Sanogo, won Most Outstanding Player honors, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the final. Tristen Newton also had a double-double with 19 points and 10 boards.

The Huskies (31-8) became the fifth team since the bracket expanded in 1985 to win all six NCAA Tournament games by double-digits on the way to a championship. They won those six games by an average of an even 20 points, only a fraction less than what North Carolina did in sweeping to the title in 2009.

UConn built a 16-point lead late in the first half, only to see the Aztecs (32-7) trim it to five with 5:19 left. But Jordan Hawkins (16 points), — whose cousin, Angel Reese, won MOP honors the night before to help LSU take the women’s title — answered with a 3 to trigger a 9-0 run.

“It’s absolutely amazing that we both get this opportunity,” Hawkins said. “The family reunion is going to be crazy.”

Keshad Johnson scored 14 points for San Diego State, which came up one win shy in this, its first trip to the Final Four. Darrion Trammell and Lamont Butler, he of buzzer-beater fame in the semifinal against Florida Atlantic, had 13 apiece.

San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher was an assistant with Michigan back in the Fab Five days, when the Wolverines lost in the final two years in a row. One of the Fab Five, current Wolverines coach Juwan Howard, was there to console his former coach.

“We had to be at our best. We weren’t at our best,” Dutcher said. “A lot had to do with UConn.”

UConn, the favorite and best-seeded team at No. 4 for this Final Four full of underdogs, set the stage for this win over an 11:07 stretch in the first half during which the Aztecs didn’t make a basket. Unable to shoot over or go around this tall, long UConn team, they missed 14 straight shots from the floor.

They went from leading by four to trailing by 11, and when they weren’t getting shots blocked (Alex Karaban had three and Sanogo had one) or altered on the inside, they were coming up short — a telltale sign of a team that was out of hops after that 72-71 buzzer-beater win two nights earlier.

UConn fan Bill Murray, whose son is an assistant for the Huskies, was one of the few celebrities on hand to watch them make it five for five in title games. This one marked the last that Jim Nantz would call after 37 years behind the mic.

“The one thing I learned through all of this is, everybody has a dream and everybody has a story to tell. Just try to find that story. Be kind,” Nantz said as part of his final sign-off from the Final Four.

He’s had a lot of UConn stories to tell over the years, though this certainly wasn’t the most dramatic.

Even with that brief bout of uncertainty midway through the second half, UConn never truly let the fifth-seeded Aztecs, who overcame a 14-point deficit in the semifinal, start thinking about any more last-second dramatics.

This was a team built strictly for 2023 — replenished by Hurley, who went to the transfer portal to find more outside shooting after back-to-back first-round exits in the tournament. Despite the rebuild, UConn was in the “others receiving votes” category in Week 1 of the AP poll.

“We weren’t ranked going into the year, so we had the chip on our shoulder,” Hurley said. “We knew the level that we could play at, even through those dark times.”

Despite the new-age roster building, there was something decidedly old-school about the way the Huskies took care of business in the early going.

They didn’t even think much about 3-point shooting at the start — didn’t make one until more than 13 minutes into the game — instead skip passing into Sanogo on the post and wearing down SDSU while building the early lead two points at a time.

The Aztecs were too good a team to cave, and an over-pursuing defense is what triggered the late run to within five. But a team built on defense finished the game only shooting 32% from the floor.

“We cut it to five. I think there were people in the stands that thought, ‘Hey, they’re capable of doing it again,’ and we were,” Dutcher said. “But we ran into too good of a team.”

UConn’s latest coronation makes Hurley the third coach to bring a trophy home to Storrs. He joins Calhoun (1999, 2004, 2001) and Ollie (2014).

And Sanogo — make that Adama — adds himself to others on a first-name basis up on that campus — UConn legends like Kemba (Walker), Rip (Hamilton) and Emeka (Okafor). Sanogo averaged 19.7 points and 9.8 rebounds over UConn’s six-game cruise through the tournament.

Once the confetti stopped falling, Sanogo recalled a preseason visit the team received from Okafor.

“After he watched our practice, he was like, ‘I see that I can count on you guys, you guys are a special team,’” Sanogo said.

After UConn put on a March Madness clinic, everyone else can see that now, too.

___

AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

National News

FILE - A woman fills out a pledge card for the U.S. Census in exchange for a reusable boba tea cart...

Associated Press

Noncitizens are less likely to participate in a census with citizenship question, study says

Adding a citizenship question to the census reduces the participation of people who aren’t U.S. citizens, particularly those from Latin American countries, according to a new research paper that comes as Republicans in Congress are pushing to add such a question to the census form. Noncitizens who pay taxes but are ineligible to have a […]

2 hours ago

FILE - State Election Board member Rick Jeffares asks the crowd to settle down during a hastily pla...

Associated Press

Trump-friendly panel shapes Georgia’s election rules at long, often chaotic meetings

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia State Election Board, which once toiled in relative obscurity, now hosts raucous meetings where public comment spans several hours and attendees regularly heckle its members. The shift highlights how election administration has become increasingly scrutinized and politicized, particularly in Georgia and other states that President Joe Biden flipped for Democrats […]

3 hours ago

FILE - This June 13, 2016 photo shows Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Florida. Thousands ...

Associated Press

Takeaways from AP’s investigation into DEA corruption, agent accused of rape

MIAMI (AP) — Thousands of secret law enforcement documents obtained by The Associated Press offer a never-before-seen window into a culture of corruption among U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents who parlayed the agency’s shadowy money laundering operations into a worldwide pursuit of binge drinking and illicit sex. Among the documents is a recovered WhatsApp chat, […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Reggie Daniels pays his respects a memorial at Robb Elementary School, June 9, 2022, in Uval...

Associated Press

Uvalde school officer charged over actions during Robb Elementary shooting set to appear in court

UVALDE, Texas (AP) — A former Uvalde school police officer who was part of the slow law enforcement response to the 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School is scheduled to appear in court for the first time Thursday. Adrian Gonzales was one of the nearly 400 law enforcement personnel who responded to the scene […]

3 hours ago

This October 2014 photo obtained by The Associated Press shows then-U.S. Drug Enforcement Administr...

Associated Press

Secret DEA files show agents joked about rape in WhatsApp chat. Then one of them was accused of it.

MIAMI (AP) — In a WhatsApp chat that quickly devolved into depravity, a group of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents boasted about their “world debauchery tour” of “boozing and whoring” on the government’s dime. They swapped lurid images of their latest sexual conquests. And at one point they even joked about “forcible anal rape.” Within […]

3 hours ago

Joe Ridenour sits for a portrait on the steps of the recreational vehicle he once called home in Ca...

Associated Press

Church sues Colorado town to be able to shelter homeless in trailers, work ‘mandated by God’

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (AP) — Behind a church surrounded by rolling prairie on the outskirts of this Colorado town sits a donated RV that Joe Ridenour called home for a year after he lost his job during the pandemic. Being able to live in the RV, he said, allowed him to avoid returning to his […]

3 hours ago

UConn wins March Madness with 76-59 smothering of SDSU