UConn vs Florida


In what was considered the most lopsided matchup of the Final Four, the seventh seed UConn Huskies took on the first overall seed Florida Gators.

The Huskies arrived in Dallas as big underdogs in this contest. But they had a secret weapon in Shabazz Napier. The senior guard was playing as well as anyone in the tournament and has seen his NBA stock rise considerably through each successive round of the tournament.

Florida, on the other hand, was seen as a clear favorite from the beginning despite featuring a big name talent. Instead, the Gators arrived in Arlington thanks to veteran leadership from Scottie Wilbiken and cohesive play from a cast of characters including Will Yeguette and Partic Young.

Florida opened up a 7-0 lead to start the game and dominated the glass to extend their lead to 16-4. The Gators’ full court press disrupted UConn’s offensive sets early. It looked as if Florida might just run away and hide early, but the Huskies of UConn would not go down so easily.

DeAndre Daniels connected on a three to spark a run from UConn. Ryan Boatwright hit on a 3 of his own before Daniels again connected from distance.

The Huskies collected each of Florida’s misses, limiting them to one shot per possession while going on a 16-4 run of their own, tying the game at 20 with 3:20 remaining in the first half.

Daniels hit a turnaround, fadeaway jumper to put UConn up 25-22 at the half. In the first half Daniels scored 10 points and collected six rebounds to carry the Huskies to the lead.

Napier was relatively quiet, scoring only five points, but facilitated his team’s offense by passing well out of the double team. Casey Prather paced the Gators in the first half with seven points while Scottie Wilbekin struggled to get into the lane against the Huskies.

UConn opened the second half with a 6-0 run, capped by a 3 from Shabazz Napier. Prather answered with two jumpers to cut the Husky lead to six at 33-27.

The Gators were held without a field goal over the next three minutes and UConn capitalized. Ryan Boatright hit back-to-back jumpers to extend the UConn lead to 10 with 12:30 left in the game.

After a TV timeout, the Gators came back with a vengeance, ripping off an 8-2 run keyed by Patric Young’s activity in the paint. A three-point play from Casey Prather cut UConn’s lead to 41-38.

But every time Florida pulled close, the Huskies mustered another run. This time, it was Boatwright and Napier who fueled an 8-1 run to put the Huskies up, 51-41, with a little more than five minutes remaining.

Patric Young scored six quick points in just over a minute to pull the Gators back within six. That is when Florida went cold.

A turnover and four missed shots in a row spelled the Gators’ doom as UConn maintained a 12-point lead with less than two minutes to play.

Young did his best to breathe life into the Gators squad down the stretch, but the Huskies were too much as they punched their ticket to the final with a 63-53 victory.

DeAndre Daniels finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds and became the third player in 30 years with 20 and 10 in the Final Four.

UConn moved the ball well on offense and netted 12 assists on their 24 made field goals while Flordia got bogged down by the half-court defense the Huskies applied getting only 3 assists on their 19 field goals.

Young finished with 19 points and five rebounds and was one of the only bright spots for Florida offensively.

Casey Prather added 15 for a Florida team that had to find other sources for points after their two best scorers, Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II, were limited to just seven combined points.

Florida shot just 38 percent from the field, well off their average of 46 percent, and only connected on one of their 10 attempts from beyond the arc.

UConn moves on to their second national championship game in three years, but who will they face on Monday night?

Kentucky vs Wisconsin


The second Final Four matchup pitted two teams that made it this far in heart-stopping fashion.

The second-seeded Wisconsin Badgers needed overtime to best Arizona in the Elite Eight while eighth-seeded Kentucky relied on Aaron Harrison’s 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining to advance to Arlington.

James Young made his impact on the game early hitting his first attempt from 3 to kick off the scoring in this contest. Traevon Jackson responded with a 3of his own for the Badgers as each team’s leading scorer for the game got off to hot starts.

Young scored seven of his team’s first nine points as Kentucky took a 9-7 lead early. Wisconsin then went on a 10-0 run while holding the Wildcats scoreless for almost three minutes. Ben Brust hit back-to-back 3s during the run before Aaron Harrison finally hit a jumper for Kentucky.

The young Wildcats made it a priority to keep the ball out of Frank Kaminsky’s hands, fronting him in the post and double teaming him at times. Sam Dekker picked up the scoring load for Kaminsky, going for 12 points in the first half alone.

The Badgers led by four at the half, 40-36, mainly due to their ability to limit turnovers and hit free throws (14-14 for the half).

In the second half, a Sam Dekker 3 ball extended the Wisconsin lead to seven right out of the gate, but Kentucky had an answer.

Julius Randle, James Young and Dakari Johnson muscled their way around the paint and collected 11 points and five rebounds during a 15-0 Wildcat run that put them up 51-43.

Duje Dukan broke the Badgers out of their slump with a tip-in basket as he and teammate Ben Brust led a Wisconsin outburst. The Badgers regained the lead and held a 58-55 advantage after a Traevon Jackson layup with 11:52 to play.

The Badgers held their lead through the middle of the second half. That lead grew to five points when Jackson hit on an and-one opportunity with 6:17 left in the game. That is when Randle and Alex Poythress jumped into action for the Wildcats.

Randle answered Jackson’s old-fashioned three-point play with one of his own before Kaminsky hit on a jumper for the Badgers. Poythress then delivered a thunderous dunk off an assist by Andrew Harrison.

Randle was fouled by Brust down low and connected on both his free throws before Poythress again finished at the basket to give Kentucky the 71-69 lead with 2:17 remaining.

Kaminsky tied the game for Wisconsin on a layup with 1:18 remaining. Andrew Harrison attempted a 3  for Kentucky that was off the mark, and Sam Dekker collected the rebound for the Badgers.

With 20 seconds left, Jackson had the ball and wandered over to the right sideline as the clock ticked down. With 16 seconds left, he launched a 3 but was fouled by Aaron Harrison. The shot missed and Jackson was awarded three free throws.

Jackson missed the first one. It was Wisconsin’s first miss of the night from the line. Jackson connected on the next two attempts, putting the Badgers up 73-71.

Kentucky inbounded the ball and advanced it beyond mid-court where most in the building expected coach John Calipari to call timeout. He did not, opting to let his young team play it out.

With the clock ticking down, the ball found its way to Aaron Harrison.

Harrison had not attempted a 3-pointer all night, but as the seconds whittled away, the freshman made his way to the left sideline before rising up from about 25 feet away to heave up the game winner.

It fell.

Kentucky was up, 73-72, with 5.7 seconds remaining, giving Wisconsin one last shot.

The Badgers inbounded it to their leading scorer, Jackson. He dribbled into the lane and pulled up around the left elbow for the shot. It banked of the glass and rimmed out at the buzzer.

Kentucky was headed to the National Championship game.

Ben Brust and Sam Dekker led the Badgers in scoring with 15 apiece. Frank Kaminsky, who had been so vital to his team’s success in the two previous rounds, was limited to eight point and five rebounds.

James Young and Julius Randle led the scoring for Kentucky with 17 and 16 points respectively. Dakari Johnson had five offensive rebounds as Kentucky took advantage of their size advantage to collect 11 offensive rebounds compared to Wisconsin’s six.

The Wildcats have won their five tournament games by a grand total of 18 points. It is the lowest cumulative margin of victory of any team to reach the final since the field was expanded in 1985.


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