The Connecticut Huskies entered the 2014 NCAA Tournament as a dark horse candidate to earn a trip to the Final Four as a No. 7 seed in the East Region. But after some stellar performances, the Huskies are now on their way to the national championship after a comprehensive victory over the No. 1 seed Florida Gators, 63-53, on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
UConn will play the winner of Wisconsin vs. Kentucky for the title on Monday night.
Judging by the opening minutes, it seemed like Florida would be on their way to a blowout victory. The Huskies failed to score after nearly four minutes, and were outscored 16-4 after more than 11 minutes of action.
But UConn would storm back against the top-ranked team in the nation. DeAndre Daniels would convert a pair of three-point shots in the Huskies’ 21-6 run to close out the first half. The junior from Los Angeles scored 10 points in the first half, and finished with 20 points on 9-14 shooting, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Florida’s scoring woes would carry over into the second half. UConn built a 31-22 lead with 17 minutes remaining, and would eventually lead by 10 points inside the final 13 points. Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin, battling sore knees, scored just four points. Wilbekin had previously been a major contributor for the Gators, like the big shots he converted against UCLA in the Sweet 16.
The Huskies had their struggles for portions of the game. UConn head coach Kevin Ollie was forced to go to a small lineup with forward Phillip Nolan and center Amida Brimah benched with four fouls. Big man Patric Young, who led Florida with 19 points, would take advantage, scoring eight points in nearly four minutes.
But UConn was resilient, building a 12-point lead in the final two minutes, and preventing Florida from mounting a serious comeback. The Huskies shot an impressive 55.8 percent from the field, compared to the Gators' 38.8 percent shooting.
Star UConn guard Shabazz Napier took just six shots and finished with 12 points. Billy Donovan's squad also struggled defensively against the other guards. Niels Griffey and Ryan Boatright combined to score 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
"You have to give Boatright and Napier a lot of credit," said Donovan, who had previously described Florida's regular season as the best he has ever coached.
"Hopefully, we can look back at some of the great things that were accomplished this season," he added.
The Huskies are back in the national championship for the first time since 2011, when they won the title under legendary head coach Jim Calhoun.