The University of Connecticut Huskies overpowered the San Diego State Aztecs 76-59 to win the men’s NCAA college basketball crown for the fifth time on Monday.
Tristen Newton scored 19 points and Malian power forward Adama Sanogo added 17 as the fourth-seeded Huskies dominated almost from start to finish to close out the victory at Houston’s NRG Stadium at the NCAA finals.
Sanogo was named the tournament’s outstanding player after the win.
Jubilant Huskies head coach Dan Hurley said his team had played with a point to prove after starting the college season without a ranking.
“They buried us before the season, and they buried us in the mid-point — we weren’t ranked going into the year, so we had a chip on our shoulder,” Hurley said. “But we knew the level we could play at even in those dark times. This means everything.”
San Diego, who had fought back from a 14-point deficit to win Saturday’s semi-final clash with Florida Atlantic, began brightly to lead 8-4 early on Monday’s final.
But UConn dominated thereafter and opened up a 16-point lead after Joey Calcaterra’s three-point jumper made it 36-20.
Although the Aztecs reduced the deficit to 12 points at half-time, trailing 36-24, UConn kept their opponents at arm’s length after the break.
San Diego did manage to get within five points late in the game, cutting the Huskies’ lead to 60-55 to raise hopes of another comeback.
But UConn pulled away once more to re-establish a double-digit lead in the final minutes and ultimately cruised to victory.
The Huskies title was UConn’s fifth after wins in 1999, 2004, 2011, and 2014.
Banner image from UConn Men’s Basketball on Twitter.