By Hocine LOUKKAF on 4/4/2023
In a Final Four with three underdogs, the Huskies didn’t let any of them create the upset and dominated against San Diego State in the championship game as they did during the whole tournament.
How they got there ?
As SDSU took an early lead thanks to Bradley (11pts after 5”20, 12-5 SDSU), FAU grinded their way back to dream of an upset and a championship game, claiming almost a 10pt lead if it wasn’t for Keshad Johnson’s last minute three pointer. The Aztecs remained under 10pts during 5min in the 2nd half as Alijah Martin (26pts) made five free throws which upped the lead to 14pts. That might have been the wake-up call for San Diego’s defense as, behind efforts from Bradley, Ledee and three threes by Micah Parrish, the lead was cut to 2pts with 8min to go. San Diego came back possession by possesion, allowing only 6ps over the last 7:46. The rest is history with Butler hitting the most important shot of his career, and his only three of the night, to give the Aztecs the chance to play for the title. He ended up with 9pts and 3as while Bradley scored 21.
In what some considered already a final, UConn took the edge from the beginning with two threes by their big man, Adama Sanogo. While Miami guard tried their best to stay close, Sanogo was tough to defend with seven more points in the first half, well helped by the shooters as Calcaterra, Alleyne and Karaban allowed the Huskies to end the first half with a 13pt-lead, limiting Miami to 24pts. The Hurricanes couldn’t find the solution as, despite Wong’s efforts (7pts between 15:00 and 11:30 in the 2nd half) to cut UConn’s lead to 8pts, thr gap remain above 10pts until the end with the Huskies getting their ticket with a 72-59 win, limiting Miami to 32% FG and dominating the paint (41rbds to 31, 5bl to 1). Sanogo ended up with 21pts 10rbds 2bl.
The championship game : San Diego vs UConn
With SDSU having the opportunity to make one of the biggest upset of the NCAA tournament history, the Aztecs started strong with four jumpers who gave them a 10-6 lead. Sanogo decided to take over slowly with a collection of rebounds, block and shots which allowed the Huskies to take the lead (12-10 with 13:58 to go). A lead that they would never give up for the rest of the night as San Diego only scored four points in almost 10min. UConn took advantage of this drought to take a 10pt then a 15pt lead before Trammell’s jumper sent the two teams to the locker rooms with a 34-26 score for the Huskies. As UConn maintain their lead during the first ten minutes of the second half, a three by Johnson cut the deficit to 8pts, then 5pts thanks to two free throws by the same Johnson with 5:19 to go. That’s the moment Hawkins choose to hit a clutch three after a perfect curl to break San Diego’s momentum, giving them no chance to come back as the Huskies flew to their 5th title with a 76-59 victory.
The Most Outstanding Player
Adama Sanogo was the main force for UConn, dominating in the paint like no one else and displaying some versatility shooting the ball. He’s a junior and could decide to come back for his senior year as he’s not been a projected first round. He had three double doubles in his last three games and at least 17pts and 8rbds in six of his last seven games.