The University of Connecticut won its fifth men’s basketball national title with a 76-59 victory over San Diego State University on Monday night at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Senior guard Tristen Newton led UConn (31-8) with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, a junior forward, chipped in with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“We weren’t ranked going into the year so we had the chip on our shoulder,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley told game broadcaster CBS. “We knew the level that we could play at, even through those dark times,” he added, referencing the team’s six losses in eight games during the regular season.
He said going into the tournament his group had confidence garnered during the season.
“And when you have the type of leaders like Andre Jackson (game-high six assists Monday) and Adama Sanogo, they kept this team together, got us back on track and we knew we were the best team in the tournament going in and we just had to play to our level,” he added.
San Diego State (32-7) was topped by Keshad Johnson who had 14 points.
UConn trailed very early but San Diego State was undone by an 11-minute, eight-second stretch in which they scored just five free throws and missed 12 consecutive shots from the field. The Huskies went from down 10-6 to up 36-24 at halftime.
The Aztecs made a run midway through the second half and narrowed the deficit to five at 60-55 with 5:19 to play but the Huskies scored the next nine to take a comfortable lead into the final two minutes.
“We battled. Battled back to five in the second half, but gave them too much separation,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said. “We had to be at our best. We weren’t at our best. A lot had to do with UConn.”
Senior guard Adam Seiko told reporters they gave themselves a chance with their second half comeback but UConn “just made a little bit more plays” at the end.
“They have a lot of weapons. They were pretty good,” said Matt Bradley, also a senior guard. “To beat them, we had to make shots. I shot poorly. And you had to have a really good game to beat those dudes on the offensive end.”
UConn won each of its six tournament games by at least 10 points, with its closest game being a 13-point win over the University of Miami in the national semifinals.
“I just want to thank my teammates, my coaches who believed in me. If it were not for them I would not be here right now,” Sanogo told CBS.
Jordan Hawkins, who scored 16 points for UConn, talked about winning the crown one day after his cousin, Angel Reese of Louisiana State University, won the women’s title.
“I mean it’s absolutely amazing that we both get this opportunity and I mean the family reunion is going to be great so that’s all I know,” he said.
UConn enters rarefied air as only the sixth team to win five NCAA men’s basketball championships, joining UCLA (11), Kentucky (eight), North Carolina (six), Duke (five) and Indiana (five). All of UConn’s titles have come since 1999 with the most recent before Monday occurring in 2014.
UConn’s women’s teams have won 11 basketball national titles.