‘Composed’ UConn cruises, will bet NCAA title

  • Jeff Borzello, ESPN Staff WriterApr 6, 2024, 11:07 PM ET


    • Basketball recruiting expert.
    • Signed up with ESPN in 2014.
    • Graduate of University of Delaware.GLENDALE, Ariz.– If there’s one play

    from UConn’s win over Alabama on Saturday night that represented the Huskies ‘run towards back-to-back national championships, it wasn’t a Donovan Clingan blocked shot or an Alex Karaban transition 3-pointer. It was Tristen Newton, calmly standing off to the side chewing his gum

    , then gradually working his method back to the ball to receive a pass and bury a 3-pointer to give UConn a nine-point lead midway through the second half.Aside from having the nation’s best offense and a top-five defense, one thing that has

    separated the Huskies is their unflappability. They have supreme self-confidence in what they’re doing. Ultimately their shots will start falling. Ultimately the challenger’s shooting will fall back to the mean. Eventually the better team will win– and this season, the better team, even more frequently than not, has been UConn.And that held true again on Saturday night, as the total 1-seed Huskies advanced to their second straight national championship game with an 86-72 win over 4-seed Alabama.”We do not crumble,” Clingan said.”Basketball is a game of runs. We stay made up, stay together and just keep playing as a team,

    and they’re not going to make every shot.”UConn will face fellow 1-seed Purdue, which beat NC State in the very first Last Four matchup, in Monday’s nationwide title game. According to ESPN BET, UConn opened as a 6.5-point preferred vs. the Boilermakers.While UConn’s 30-0 run last week versus Illinois was a lightning-in-a-bottle scenario, it did highlight a major style this season: The Huskies just do not

    stop attacking. And a lot of teams run out of steam before UConn does.”Our identity is to be pretty relentless,”coach Dan Hurley said. “We might not break you for 18 minutes, 25 minutes, but eventually if what we’re doing at both ends and on the backboard is at a high level, it just becomes hard for the other team to sustain it. “The very first 10 minutes of Saturday’s second half were the embodiment of a blow-for-blow series. The first string that stopped working to counter was most likely going to lose. The Huskies began the duration with four straight indicate open their biggest lead of the game, an eight-point edge. Alabama instantly reacted with a 7-0 run, then UConn countered with a 7-0 run of its own– and Alabama came right back with a 7-0 run and ultimately tied the game at 56 with 12:41 remaining.UConn scored the next 8 points and Alabama didn’t get closer than 6 points the rest of the way.”It’s body blows, it’s body blows, “Hurley said.”It’s continue to guard, continue to rebound, execute our offense. Eventually there will be a breaking-point opportunity that will present itself, especially in this competition. “The Crimson Tide were able to hold up against most of UConn’s runs due to the fact that they couldn’t miss out on from 3, striking 9 of their first 12 efforts from behind the arc. But they made just among their next 9 3s as UConn continued to score timely baskets or get clutch stops when needed.Editor’s Picks 2 Related “I think it’s discouraging for the other group due to the fact that they have actually seen it, “Hurley stated.” They have actually seen us do it a lot.”Alabama presented a larger difficulty for UConn than any group the Huskies have faced in this year’s NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide were making shots early and requiring UConn’s defense to turn out of position, specifically when star center Clingan was out of the game. Clingan, who had 18 points and four blocks, obstructed a shot on Alabama’s very first ownership and managed the paint at that end of the floor.But when he went to the bench, Alabama was able to take advantage, scoring a fast 10 points on its very first four possessions. After UConn tracked for simply 28 seconds in its very first four games of this year’s NCAA competition, Alabama led the Huskies for nearly five minutes in the first half of Saturday’s game. UConn likewise faced its biggest deficit of the tournament when the Tide opened up a 23-18 lead with 11:09 staying in the first half.”It’s a grind-it-out game. We can’t be too expensive, we can’t be too low,”stated Karaban, who had 14 points and 2 key blocks on Alabama star Mark Sears.” We’re not making shots, we simply got to remain concentrated, stay locked in. We understand what we’re capable of as a group, we understand what the other group is capable of too … We knew that they were going to have their runs; we simply needed to react with our runs.”Alabama hasn’t been shy about its identity and what got the group to the Last 4: 3-point shooting. The Crimson Tide made 16 shots from behind the arc in the regional last against Clemson and had actually made a minimum of 11 3s in 3 of their four NCAA competition games.In the very first half against UConn, the dish didn’t change. Three of Alabama’s first 4 basket were 3-pointers, including a Grant Nelson triple on the Tide’s very first ownership. They shot 8-for-11 from the border in the first half. Earlier in the week, Alabama coach Nate Oats stated he wished to” let them fly”and didn’t mind if his players approached 50 3-point attempts in a game if that’s how the defense played

    them. So while the high portion from 3 kept Alabama in the game, the number of efforts( 23 for the game)offered optimism for Hurley– and was a concern for Oats.”We knew they were going to attempt to run us off, be physical,”Oats said.” Yeah, 23 is not ideal. We ‘d rather be pressing more like mid-30s on 3s. However they were obviously going to try to take us off the line. When they took us off the line, we drove it in. They did a better job forcing us to take more non-rim twos than we most likely have all year. … Practically a third of our shots wound up being non-rim 2s. That’s not how we usually play.”For UConn, it was Clingan and fellow projected first-rounder Stephon Castle who willed the Huskies into the lead. Castle, the luxury freshman, was appointed to protect Sears and held him scoreless for the very first 6:38 while scoring 13 points of his own. The Crimson Tide were providing Castle– a 26.2 %3-point shooter on the season– a lot of space on the offending end, with Nelson unfaithful off him to assist block the lane around Clingan. Castle, who completed with a game-high 21 points, reacted by burying 2 early threes and revealing plenty of aggressiveness driving to the rim.”I saw it like the first play of the game when we were attempting to run a set and the guy was protecting me in the paint. I attempted to benefit from it early,”Castle said.”I would not state it was motivation. I would simply say it was type of a disrespect on their end simply to safeguard that far back.” Clingan and Castle purchased UConn enough time for veteran guards Newton and Web cam Spencer– the Huskies’two stalwarts all season– to get their offense going. Newton scored five straight late in the first half, and after that Spencer hit a couple of shots to help the Huskies open a 42-35 lead with 1:15 left till halftime.With a possible game-changing run looming– the 30-0 avalanche versus Illinois occurred just one week ago– it was Sears who kept Alabama within arm’s reach entering into the break. He struck a corner 3 with 50 seconds left and then a leaner in the lane as time expired to cut UConn’s

    cause 44-40 at the end of the first half.” We have the experience from last year,” Karaban stated.” Although we controlled groups in 2015, we still had the experience of playing against 75,000 individuals, and really the place and the pressure that brings with the Last Four. The experience never truly rattled us. We knew we simply needed to remain together and respond.” UConn is now 40 minutes from ending up being the first back-to-back nationwide champion given that Florida in 2006 and 2007. The Huskies’streak of NCAA competition wins by double digits also stays undamaged, as they have actually now won all 11 tournament games over the past 2 seasons by double digits. “We make a difficult tournament look simple,”Hurley said.”It’s insane.

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