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UConn eliminates Purdue's 3s in dominant NCAA title repeat

Huskies win 12th straight tournament game by double figures

Posted 4/8/24

GLENDALE - No matter how well he has played in earning two straight Naismith National Player of the Year awards, even Zach Edey could not beat defending champion UConn by himself.

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UConn eliminates Purdue's 3s in dominant NCAA title repeat

Huskies win 12th straight tournament game by double figures


GLENDALE - No matter how well he has played in earning two straight Naismith National Player of the Year awards, even Zach Edey could not beat defending champion UConn by himself.

In Monday’s NCAA final at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, the Huskies rarely doubled the 7-4 senior, particularly with 7-2 sophomore center Donovan Clingan playing 31 minutes. Edey poured in 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in what likely is his final college game.

However, that strategy left Purdue’s guards looking for open three-point opportunities that rarely arrived. The Boilermakers made only one trey and attempted only seven, two days after going 10-25 in their semifinal win over North Carolina State.

Once again, UConn was the epitome of offensive balance with four starters in double figures, six threes to go with 24 twos. Again, the difference was the defense the Huskies played to win its second straight title with six straight double digit wins, closing out Purdue 75-60.

“We didn’t want to give up threes. We didn’t care if Zach took 25, 28, 30 shots to get 30, 35 points,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “The whole game plan was no Smith, no Loyer, no Gillis, no Jones. Keep that collective group under 18, 20 points. That way they had no chance to win, no matter how well Edey played.”

Graduate student guard Tristen Newton led that balanced approach one last time, pacing the champs with 20 points and seven assists. He also teamed with guards Stephon Castle and Cam Spencer to hold the three-man Purdue backcourt to 17 total points.

Newton earned the Final Four Most Outstanding player honors and Castle, Clingan and Spencer joined him and Edey on the all Final Four team.

"I mean we watched the film. They get their threes off people going down there and helping off Edey," Newton said. "He only shoots twos. He doesn't shoot threes. If he makes 15 twos like he did today, that's 30. Where are the rest of the points going to come from?"

UConn players celebrate as the confetti falls after winning the NCAA men's college basketball championship game 75-60 against Purdue, Monday, April 8, 2024, in Glendale. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

While the Huskies did not go on a show-stopping run like their 30-0 burial of Illinois, they seized control early in the second half and steadily pulled away. A Clingan offensive rebound set up a Newton trey for 39-30.

Two straight alley oops to junior power forward Samson Johnson built the lead to 47-34. Then after Edey scored off his an offensive rebound to briefly get Purdue within three, his team did not score for three minutes.

Sophomore forward Alex Karaban hit a trey off Newton's feed and senior guard Hassan Diarra made a layup transition to effectively put the game away at 56-40 with 9:27 left.

UConn finished this tournament with six wins by a combined 140 points.

"I think it's up there in terms of the greatest two-year runs that a program maybe has ever had just because - I can't say anything about Duke because I'm going to piss my brother off," Hurley said. "I think it's the best two-year run in a very, very long time, just because of everything we lost from last year's team. To me it is more impressive than what Florida and Duke did because they brought back their entire teams. We lost some major players."

UConn withstood a dominant opening 15 minutes by Edey, who powered in 16 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked two shots to keep Purdue close at 28-25.

Edey finished the tournament with 177 points and a 29.5 point per game average - the second highest in NCAA tournament history.

"Yeah, man I enjoy playing with him," Purdue sophomore point guard Braden Smith said. " Two-time national Player of the Year. The most unselfish person you'll ever meet. ... To have somebody like that who just wants to go out there and play, because that's what he loves, and people want to give him crap for it. Just saying that makes me kind of admire him a little bit more."

Smith sank a foul-line jumper, then a three to cut the Huskies’ lead to one possession at 32-30. He was the only other Boilermaker in double figures with 12 points.

Newton was there again, hitting the final two baskets of the half to give UConn a 36-30 lead at the break.

His wingmen added to the imbalance, as Castle scored 15 and Spencer added 11 and eight rebounds.

"It was a big part of our game plan, trying to limit as much as we can from the guards. I thought we did a good job of that," Castle said. "We just played confident on the other end. I feel like coach put us in great positions to be successful any time and it worked out for us."

Purdue center Zach Edey (15) leaves the courier their loss against UConn in the NCAA college Final Four championship basketball game, Monday, April 8, 2024, in Glendale. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Purdue finished with a program record 34 wins this year.

This was the Boilermakers' first Final Four since 1980 and first national title game since 1969.

"It hurts because these opportunities are slim. You say you're going to get back here, but you want to use this as motivation to get back here and keep growing your program," Purdue coach Matt Painter said. "I told our guys in the locker room, like, when you have the most wins in school history, you're the first team to win back-to-back (Big Ten) championships since 1976 ... and you get an eyelash away from winning it all, that's the standard."

The Boilermakers ran into the same problem every elite college team has during the last two tourneys. UCon rolled over teams to the trophy last year with a 31-8 record.

The Huskies lost three starters, and somehow got better with a 37-3 record this season. The powerhouse in Storrs won its second straight title largely by never acting like it was the defending champion.

"I wouldn't take any credit for setting the tone. It was all coach. Last year was last year. It's not defending the trophy. The 2023 trophy is in coach's office. Nobody can take that from him," Newton said. "This was a whole different year. We had different goals. We got all those done. Credit to coach for setting the tone and everyone just follows his lead."