Double Dogs: UConn men’s basketball thumps Purdue, 75-60, to win second consecutive national championship

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The UConn men are on top of the basketball world. Again.

For the second year in a row, it was Dan Hurley and the Huskies cutting down the nets and lifting the national championship trophy on the sport’s biggest stage, completing their remarkable run as reigning champs with a 75-60 win in a mammoth matchup against Purdue Monday night.

“What could you say. We won. By a lot. Again,” Hurley said, after the program’s 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament win by double-digits.

UConn is the first repeat men’s national champion since Florida in 2006-07, the eighth all-time and only the third since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985 – including the 1991 and ’92 Duke teams that had Bobby Hurley, Dan’s brother, at point guard.

Now with six titles in as many championship game appearances, all since 1999, UConn is tied with North Carolina for the third-most of any program in the nation behind UCLA (11) and Kentucky (8).

“For the last 25, 30 years, UConn’s been running college basketball,” Hurley said on the podium.

Headlined by the matchup between UConn’s 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan and Purdue’s 7-4 Zach Edey, it was only the second-ever battle between two 7-foot starters in the national championship game.

Clingan finished with 11 points and five rebounds to Edey’s 37 and 10, but had the advantage of a supporting cast which was led by 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds from All-American point guard Tristen Newton. Freshman Stephon Castle added 15 points with five rebounds and Cam Spencer had 11. UConn’s guards outscored Purdue’s guards, 55-17.

The Huskies only trailed for a minute and 36 seconds.

Newton was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament with Spencer, Castle and Clingan on the All-Tournament team.

Spencer showed how ready he was to play right away and knocked down a 3-pointer to start the scoring for UConn. He had seven of the Huskies’ first 11 points.

But on the other end Edey, an immovable force in the low post, scored 14 of Purdue’s first 23 points and went to the bench for a quick breather, and Clingan took advantage with an immediate three-point play. Edey came back in and tipped in a miss with the ball appearing to still be in the cylinder.

As Hurley voiced his displeasure with the no-call, Clingan got the Huskies started on a 6-0 run to take the largest lead for either team in the first half, 32-25 with 3:29 to go. Braden Smith, who had nine first half points for the Boilermakers, made a midrange and a 3-point jumper to cut it back to two but Newton and Castle were the only two to score in the final two minutes, sending the Huskies into halftime up six.

Newton, who scored his 2,000th-career point in the first half, got the Huskies going in the second with a 3-pointer and later found Samson Johnson, after Clingan was called for his third foul, for a pair of alley-oop dunks to push the lead to 12 with 14:40 to go.

The Huskies continued to deal with foul trouble after Johnson was whistled for his fourth around the 14-minute mark and Spencer, who flew in to take a rebound from Edey, was called for his third with 11:31 to go. Diarra was called for his third a minute later, but followed an Alex Karaban 3 with a layup in transition to put UConn up 16.

Clingan’s fourth foul came with just under eight minutes on the clock, forcing Hurley to go back to Johnson, who fouled out of the game with 5:38 left and the Huskies leading by 17.

Hurley gambled with his small-ball lineup, giving Karaban the Edey assignment for the next three minutes and the Huskies maintained a 13-point advantage.

Edey, 15-for-25 from the field, continued to score for the Boilermakers but the Huskies were able to wind the clock on offense, each starter receiving a Hurley bear hug when he emptied the bench with 36 seconds left.

“I just think it’s the best two-year run I think in a very, very long time just because of everything we lost from last year’s team,” Hurley said. “To lose that much and, again, to do what we did again, it’s got to be as impressive a two-year run as a program’s had since prior to whoever did it before Duke. To me it is more impressive than what Florida and Duke did because they brought back their entire teams. We lost some major players.”