UConn overwhelms Purdue in second half to win back-to-back national titles

UConn emphatically won a second straight NCAA tournament on Monday night.

The Huskies pulled away from Purdue in the second half on the way to a 75-60 win over the Boilermakers. The victory makes UConn the first team since Florida in 2006 and 2007 to win back-to-back men’s basketball national titles.

UConn is an especially dominant back-to-back champion, too. The Huskies won each of their 2024 NCAA tournament games by at least 14 points. A season ago, UConn won its six tournament games by at least 13 points.

"You can't even wrap your mind around it because you know how hard this tournament is," UConn coach Dan Hurley said after the game.

UConn players celebrate after defeating the Purdue in the NCAA championship game at State Farm Stadium on Monday in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tyler Schank/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
UConn players celebrate after defeating the Purdue in the NCAA championship game at State Farm Stadium on Monday in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tyler Schank/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Purdue trailed by six at halftime and could feel reasonably positive about its chances with star big man Zach Edey scoring 16 points in the first 20 minutes. But UConn simply overwhelmed Purdue in the second half as its backcourt made play after play after play.

The biggest storyline heading into Monday night’s game was the matchup between Naismith Player of the Year Edey and UConn big man Donovan Clingan. Outside of Edey, Clingan had been the most dominant post player of the tournament and looked to be the player most well-equipped to keep Edey in check.

But this game didn’t come down to Clingan or Edey. UConn’s perimeter players’ dominance over Purdue’s decided it.

After UConn extended its lead to 16 with over nine minutes to go, Purdue didn't buckle and didn't let the lead get any bigger for a few minutes. But Cam Spencer clinched the game for the Huskies with 5:12 to go as he extended the lead to 18 with a jumper in the lane.

Purdue entered the game as the No. 2 3-point shooting team in the country. The Boilermakers made nearly 41% of their almost 21 attempts per game this season. Yet UConn’s stifling defense kept Purdue from shooting 3-pointers, let alone finding open ones. The Boilermakers were just 1 of 7 from behind the arc.

8 schools have won consecutive national titles

The Huskies became the eighth program in men’s college basketball history to win consecutive titles on Monday night and just the second team to win back-to-back championships in the 2000s. Before Florida won its consecutive titles over 15 years ago, you have to go back to 1991 and 1992 when Duke won consecutive championships.

That 2007 Florida team brought back NBA players like Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer from the previous season. This UConn team had to restock much more than the Gators did after losing leading scorer Adama Sanogo and second-leading scorer Jordan Hawkins to the NBA Draft along with Andre Jackson a year ago.

Yeah, Tristen Newton, Alex Karaban and Clingan returned — and each increased his scoring output significantly — but the Huskies had to replenish the roster with players like Spencer and Stephon Castle. Spencer spent the first three seasons of his career at Loyola (Maryland) before transferring to Rutgers for a season. Castle, one of the top recruits in the country, emerged as a lockdown defender and an 11-point per game scorer in his first season.

This year, the Huskies were somehow better. A season ago, UConn entered the tournament as a No. 4 seed. This season, UConn was the No. 1 overall seed and outscored its opponents by a staggering 140 points over its six NCAA tournament wins. That’s the biggest scoring margin in NCAA tournament history, surpassing Kentucky (+129) in 1996.

"The message was that we were the best team in the country," Hurley said when asked what he told his team before the game. "Purdue was clearly the second-best team in the country. Play to our identity, be who we've been all year and we'll be champions."

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - APRIL 08: Zach Edey #15 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts after losing to the Connecticut Huskies 75-60 in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship game at State Farm Stadium on April 08, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Zach Edey scored 37 of Purdue's 60 points on Monday night. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

No help for Edey

Edey finished the game with 37 points and was 15 of 25 from the field and 7 of 10 from the free throw line. His stats dwarfed that of his teammates.

The rest of the seven other Purdue players who played more than a minute had just 27 points and shot just five free throws. Braden Smith finished the game with 12 points. No one else had more than five.

UConn clearly didn’t mind if Edey racked up the points as long as it could contain everyone else. And the Huskies did a heck of a job doing that. Nine of Smith’s points came in the first half and Purdue players not named Edey took just 29 total shots over the game’s 40 minutes.

Newton led UConn with 20 points, while Castle had 15 and Spencer and Clingan each had 11. The Huskies were just 6 of 22 from behind the 3-point line themselves and did most of their damage in the paint. As they kept Purdue from getting threes on defense, UConn tried to get to the lane as much as possible on offense. It worked. The Huskies scored 44 points in the paint and were 16 of 23 on layups and dunks.

UConn is undefeated in title games

The victory continues a remarkable streak for the Huskies in national title games. UConn has made six appearances in men’s national title games and has won them all.

All of those wins have come since 1999, too. UConn won its first title 25 years ago before adding a second in 2004 and a third in 2011 under former coach Jim Calhoun. In 2014, UConn won its fourth title as a No. 7 seed under coach Kevin Ollie.

Five of those six titles have come since the Big Ten last had a team to win the NCAA tournament. Purdue’s loss continues a losing streak for the conference that dates back to Michigan State’s national title in 2000.