|THE WEEKLY DISH: HUSKIES WIN THE TITLE
April 6, 2011
Mike, SCS.com Staff Writer
Amidst all the talk of the two Cinderella programs reaching the Final Four, when it was all said and done, it was the highest remaining seed that took the title. The Connecticut Huskies behind a pair of ugly wins took home their third National Championship in 12 years. Connecticut missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago, but pulled off a miraculous run of five straight wins in the Big East Tournament and six straight in the NCAA Tournament to take home the title. Butler reaching a second straight title game probably takes the Bulldogs off the Mid-Major line and puts the Bulldogs among the nation’s elite programs. Virginia Commonwealth’s run likely means that a 68 team field is here to stay. For the final time, here’s the Weekly Dish.
Best Game of the Final Four - (3) Connecticut 56 (4) Kentucky 55
In one of the uglier National Semifinals we have seen in a long time, the Huskies of Connecticut wore down Kentucky. UCONN shot just one-for-12 from beyond the arc, but managed to pull out the one-point-win over a Kentucky team that missed eight of its 12 free throw attempts. The Huskies took a 10-point-lead into the locker room, but the game was back-and-forth in the second half. With the game tied at 48, Connecticut used a 6-0 run to take a 54-48 lead. After a three-pointer and a free throw by Kentucky’s DeAndre Liggins, the Wildcats were within two with 49 seconds to play. On the next Connecticut possession, guard Shabazz Napier turned the ball over and Kentucky had a chance to tie or take the lead with 16 seconds remaining. Liggins got a decent look from downtown, but his shot came up short. Connecticut corralled the rebound and Napier iced the game with a pair of free throws.
The National Championship - (3) Connecticut 53 (8) Butler 41
It wasn’t pretty, but Connecticut outscored Butler 34-19 in the second half to capture its third National Championship in a dozen seasons. The Huskies trailed 22-19 at halftime after Butler’s Shelvin Mack knocked home a three as the first half buzzer sounded. Butler connected on a three point field goal on its first possession of the second half to take a 25-19 lead. But from there on out, it was all Connecticut. The Huskies used a 22-3 run to take a commanding 41-28 lead with 7:33 to play in the game. Butler would never get closer than eight as the Bulldogs were held to an all-time low for shooting percentage in a National Championship game at 19 percent. The game was nearly 34 minutes old before Butler got its first two points in the paint. Senior Matt Howard was held to seven points on one-for-13 from the field.
The Weekly Dish’s All-Final Four Team
Kemba Walker - Guard, Connecticut
Connecticut’s All-American guard did not light up the nets in Houston, but led the Huskies in scoring in both games. Walker scored 18 against Kentucky, but added six rebounds and seven assists. In the National Championship game, Walker shot just five-for-19, but scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Walker was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
Shelvin Mack - Guard, Butler
Mack, like everyone else for Butler, struggled mightily in the National Championship game shooting just four-for-15, but managed to lead the team with 13 points. The National Semifinal was a different story however. Mack scored 24 points on eight-of-11 shooting while bringing down six rebounds as the Bulldogs downed upstart Virginia Commonwealth 70-62. Mack was the key ingredient in Butler’s run to a second straight appearance in the National Championship game.
Terrence Jones - Forward, Kentucky
The Wildcats left many points on the floor in their loss to Connecticut in the National Semifinal, but freshman Terrence Jones finished five-for-eight. Jones missed on all five of his free throw attempts, but finished with 11 points, 15 rebounds while coming up with four steals. Jones did not get a touch on Kentucky’s late possession that resulted in DeAndre Liggins’ miss on the potential game-winner. It will be interesting to see if Jones comes back for his sophomore season.
Jamie Skeen - Forward, Virginia Commonwealth
Although VCU’s season came to a disappointing halt, Jamie Skeen was a force to be reckoned with in his final game as a collegiate. Skeen finished with 27 points, six rebounds and three assists in his final game against the Butler Bulldogs. Skeen knocked down three shots from beyond the arc and single-handily kept the Rams in the game. With the exception of perhaps Shelvin Mack, no player improved his NBA stock throughout the tournament more than Skeen.
Alex Oriakhi - Center, Connecticut
Oriakhi provided a solid post threat for Connecticut on its run to a National Championship and was by far the best defensive player in Houston. In UCONN’s Final Four match-up with Kentucky, Oriakhi scored eight points on four-for-six from the field and brought down 10 rebounds. Against Butler in the title game, Oriakhi shined. The sophomore connected on five of his six shots finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Oriakhi also blocked four shots and altered several others as Butler went more than 33 minutes with a single point in the paint.
Jim Calhoun - Head Coach, Connecticut
Amidst all the off-the-court allegations, Jim Calhoun brought his team together as the 68-year-old Calhoun won his third National Championship. After not making the NCAA Tournament a year ago, Calhoun guided his team to a championship in the Big East Tournament winning five games in five days. Prior to the run in the conference tournament, UCONN had not won a single game in the Big East Tournament in any of the last five years. Calhoun guided Connecticut to wins over Bucknell, Cincinnati, San Diego State, Arizona, Kentucky and Butler in the NCAA Tournament. At 68, Calhoun became the oldest coach ever to take his team to a National Championship.
Jeremy Lamb G Connecticut, Brad Stevens HC Butler