Connecticut Huskies 53, Butler Bulldogs 41
Man, that game sucked. I'm sure The UConn Blog will take it, but man, for anyone who wasn't a Husky fan, that game SUCKED.
At first I thought it was great defense in the first half. And some of it was. Butler's rotations were sound in holding UConn to 19 points, and UConn's length truly bothered Butler to the point their bigs could barely breathe in the paint.
But as time went by, it became a little simpler than that. You see, literally every open shot Butler took in and out, and every other shot was off. They shot 3 for 31 from the field on their two pointers, perhaps the most incredible basketball stat I'll ever type. At one point, the Bulldogs made one of 22 shots--Chase Stigall hit a three at the start of the second half--and then managed three points for the next thirteen minutes as Connecticut scored 22 to put it away.
Really though, as much as I'd like to talk about Connecticut going out there and winning this one, the story is Butler's horrendous shooting. 9 for 33 on threes to go along with that horrendous two point production. Matt Howard 1 for 13, Shelvin Mack 4 for 15, Shawn Vanzant 2 for 10, Chase Stigall 3 for 11, Andrew Smith 2 for 9. Add in six missed free throws and the Bulldogs will look back at this one as a lost opportunity. Up 25-19 at the start of the second half, all the momentum on their side ... and they couldn't get that ball to bury its way through the basket. They were closer to the title last year, but they had plenty of chances to take this one if they could make a couple of shots.
UConn's stats are hardly anything to write home about, but in a game where baskets meant everything, they got them. Kemba Walker did not have the greatest game offensively (5 for 19, although he did hit six free throws and grab nine rebounds), but it didn't matter, because Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi were the difference-makers. Lamb was impossible to stop in the second half one-on-one, as the Bulldogs actually had to play zone (something they never ever do) to try and stop him. He scored 11 of his 12 points during that early UConn second half run. And the overlooked Oriakhi was the only ultra efficient player on the floor, taking six shots and making five of them, pacing his way to a double-double.
Thus concludes one of the most remarkable runs in college basketball history, a Connecticut team that totally devalued the meaning of the regular season by going .500 in conference, only to go undefeated in non-conference games and never lose a single tournament game (Maui, The Big East & March Madness).