UConn tops Purdue, 75-60, wins second straight national championship

UConn got 20 points from Tristen Newton and 15 from Stephon Castle as they outlasted Naismith Player of the Year Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers, 75-60, to win the national championship game Monday night in Glendale, Ariz.

With the win, the Huskies became the first team to win back-to-back national titles for the first time since 2007. It is the sixth time Connecticut has won the men's title.

The Huskies, who led by six after 20 minutes, entered the night winning their last 47 straight games when leading at halftime. And the familiar pattern of their NCAA Tournament run took hold: UConn built a lead and pulled away in the second period putting the opposition in a vice grip on the defensive end and scoring timely buckets.

The Huskies let the Purdue big man be their offense – he finished with 37 points on 15-for-25 shooting – but they held the seven other Boilermakers who attempted a shot to 9-for-29 (31.3 percent) from the floor and just 1-for-7 from three. The one-man band was no match for the unit from UConn.

And in a game when Connecticut’s big men ran into foul trouble, they won the rebound battle 35-28, including corralling 14 offensive rebounds.

Here are the takeaways…

- On the opening possession, the heavyweight battle was set with Purdue feeding 7-foot-4 Edey in the paint as he banged into Connecticut’s 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan three times before taking a short hook shot that drew the front of the rim. Through five minutes the Boilermakers sent the ball to Edey on the left block on four possessions with the big man converting on two of his first four shots.

But then Edey took over: first catching a lob for a dunk over Clingan out of the first media timeout, another hook shot fell and an old-fashioned three-point play sending Clingan to the bench. On the defensive side, the Canadian center had a pair of authoritative blocks on the same possession showing he was going to be a force on both ends of the court.

The back-to-back Player of the Year finished the half with 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting to go along with five rebounds and two blocks. Clingan had seven points on 3-for-6 with two boards and a block at the break.

- Cam Spencer knocked down three of his first five from the field and, off the bench, Hassan Diarra hit three of his first four (including a three-pointer) to combine for 14 points. But Diarra and Samson Johnson – who was tasked with covering Edey when Clingan sat – both had two fouls under 12 minutes into the game.

But behind Newton’s 11 points and a defense that held Purdue to just two three-point attempts and was built to make sure nobody outside of Edey would beat them – holding a Boilermakers team that averages 18 assists per game to just three the first half –  they built a seven-point lead late in the half.

Two buckets from Braden Smith – including their only three – forced Dan Hurley to call time, but the Huskies rebounded to score the half’s final two buckets for a 36-30 lead. And at the half, Hurley was pleased with the game’s quick pace, hoping to continue to quicken the game and tire out Edey - who rarely sits for Purdue.

- After a fast start, Edey’s cold run took shape as he missed four of his first five attempts from the floor with two turnovers. And on defense, UConn attacked him in the pick-and-rolls with the quicker Johnson to beat him for two alley-oops to push the lead to 47-34.

The UConn defense stymied the Boilermakers, holding them to 10 points through the second half’s first ten minutes, but fouls were mourning with Johnson (4), Diarra (3), Spencer (3) and Clingan (3) in a spot of trouble.

- But they had an answer: Alex Karaban knocked down a three and Diarra's layup pushed the lead to 56-40 to force a Purdue timeout. But Clingan grabbed his fourth foul with 7:52 to play and Purdue had a 4-0 run from Edey. But again the Huskies respond with two baskets.

Johnson would foul out with 5:38 to play and Karaban on Edey with Clingan on the bench. And, well, it didn’t matter much as buckets from Spencer and Clingan and free throws from Newton answered every Purdue basket.

- Newton, who took home Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors, went 6-for-13 from the floor (6-for-6 from the free-throw line) with seven assists and five rebounds. Castle went 6-for-13 from the floor with five rebounds and three assists.

Spencer finished with 11 points on 5-for-12 shooting and had eight rebounds with two assists and two steals. Clingan had 11 points (5-for-8 shooting) with five rebounds.

The win, UConn's 13th straight, pushed their record to 37-3 on the season.