HOUSTON >> UConn doled out another drama-free basketball beatdown today, getting 21 points and 10 rebounds from Adama Sanogo to dispatch Miami 72-59 and move one win from the school’s fifth national title.
Jordan Hawkins overcame his stomach bug and scored 13 for the Huskies, who came into this most unexpected Final Four as the only team with any experience on college basketball’s final weekend and with the best seeding of the four teams in Houston — at No. 4.
Against fifth-seeded Miami, they were the best team on the court from beginning to end. Starting with three straight 3s — one jumper from Hawkins and two set shots from Sanogo — UConn took a quick 9-0 lead and never trailed.
On Monday in the title game, the Huskies will face San Diego State, which became the first team to hit a buzzer-beater while trailing in a Final Four game for a 72-71 victory over Florida Atlantic.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “And I think it’s fitting that both of us kind of earned our way into this title game.”
But while the early game was an all-timer, the nightcap was simply more of the same from the Huskies (30-8).
The semifinal victory was UConn’s closest win in five tournament games, and it became only the sixth team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to reach the title game after winning its first five in the tournament by double digits. It’s an impressive list with a daunting epilogue: Four of the previous five teams won the championship.
Some thought Miami (29-8), with four players who have scored 20 points at least three times this season, might be the team to slow this Huskies steamroller. Not to be.
Isaiah Wong led the ‘Canes with 15 points on 4-for-10 shooting. Harassed constantly by Sanogo, 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan and the rest of Connecticut’s long-armed, rangy perimeter players, Miami, which came in with the nation’s fifth-best offense, shot 25% in the first half and 33.3% for the game.
UConn did enjoy its own sort of buzzer-beater. It was a 3 from Alex Karaban that sent the Huskies jogging into the locker room with a 13-point halftime lead.
They built it to 20 before the first TV timeout of the second half. By then, Jim Nantz, calling his last Final Four, could start saving his voice for Monday.
Miami did get it under double digits a few times, but this never got interesting.
Not helping: Hurricanes guard Nijel Pack missed about five minutes after managers had trouble locating a substitute for a malfunctioning shoe. Pack finished with eight in this one, and Jordan Miller, who hit all 20 shots he took from the floor and the line in Miami’s Elite Eight win, went 4 for 10 for 11 points. Only one Miami player made more than half his shots.
“I’m a defensive guy first and foremost,” Hurley said. “I just love the way we guarded them. They’re one of the best offenses in the country, and we really disrupted them.”
UConn had five blocks, including two from Sanogo, and 19 assists, led by eight from Tristen Newton — both signs of the sort of all-around effort the Huskies have been putting in since the start of February, after a six-loss-in-eight-games stretch halted their momentum.
That cold stretch is a big reason they were seeded only fourth for March. Now, it’s April and the number UConn is thinking about is “5” — as in a fifth title that will come if it can keep this up for one more game.
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