The 2014 NCAA tournament has produced the most unlikely final since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, as Monday’s national championship game will feature the Connecticut Huskies and the Kentucky Wildcats.
Although many hoped there would be an all SEC national championship game with Florida and Kentucky facing off for the fourth time this season.
UConn beat Florida, the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, 63-53 and never trailed in the second half. The Huskies have won three national championships — in 1999, 2004 and 2011 — and have never lost the title game. Connecticut knocked out Kentucky in the 2011 Final Four en route to its most recent championship.
The Wildcats have won eight national championships — in 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998 and 2012 — the second most in NCAA history behind only UCLA’s 11. Kentucky lost the title game in 1966, 1975 and 1997.
On Saturday night, with only 5.7 seconds left, Harrison took pass from his twin brother, Andrew, spotted up from NBA range and watched the ball rattle to lift the Wildcats to a 74-73 victory Saturday night over Wisconsin in the Final Four.
It’s the third straight game the Kentucky freshman has made a 3 for the winning points in this magical ride for the Wildcats (29-10), and the second straight time the pass has come from his brother for a spot-up shot from the left center of the arc.
“Coach [John Calipari] said he wanted me to take the shot,” Aaron Harrison said. “That gave me a lot of confidence. My teammates had confidence in me; I just fed off that.
“We fight so hard and are so resilient,” he said over the stadium’s public-address system, but the roar of Kentucky fans drowned out the rest.
The Huskies beat overall No. 1 seed Florida 63-53 Saturday night, getting them into Monday night’s title game against Kentucky.
UConn fell behind 16-4 in the first 10 minutes and essentially dominated the rest of the game. The enigmatic DeAndre Daniels had 20 points and 10 rebounds to pace four Huskies in double figures. More important, he shook UConn out of its early funk with a pair of 3-pointers in an 11-0 run to get back in the game.
“People were keying on Shabazz and that opened things up for the rest of us,” he said.
Shabazz Napier helped seal this game with about 2 minutes to play when he made two free throws for a 59-47 lead. That margin was the deficit the Huskies (31-8) faced in the opening minutes after a cold shooting start.
“I knew we was going to get back in the game. They knew we was going to get back in the game,” second-year coach Kevin Ollie said. “We live and die on defense and hopefully everybody understands that.” But the Huskies were impressive on offense, shooting 55.8% from the field against a team that allowed opponents to shoot 39.9% this season, says Newser.
“It wasn’t one of our better games and Connecticut had a lot to do with that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “Scottie lived in the lane all season for us. Their pressure didn’t let him get there. . . . It starts with Boatright. There’s not many guards who can keep Scottie out of the lane. These guys did.”