The Connecticut Huskies are national champions after taking down the Kentucky Wildcats, and there are a few big reasons they were able to come away with the victory.
It was a close game throughout, but the Huskies came away with the 60-54 win. Although the Wildcats were down 15 points at one point in the first half, they were able to cut it to four points by halftime and kept making big plays to stay in it.
Now that the Huskies are national champions, let's take a look at the biggest reasons they were able to take down Kentucky.
Shabazz Napier's Big Night
It seems like almost every national champion has one player who's been able to pull the team out of tough spots all season by taking over games. That was definitely the case with this year's Connecticut squad, as senior guard Shabazz Napier came up with some huge plays throughout the season while averaging 18 points per game.
Napier got off to a quick start in this game, putting up 15 points in the first half. He finished the game with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals while shooting 8-of-16 from the field. His huge night was enough to help him earn the Most Outstanding Player award.
ESPN's Jeff Goodman had some great things to say about Napier after the win.
Shabazz Napier will go down as one of the greatest players -- and toughest kids -- in UConn history. Two national titles.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 8, 2014
As a senior, Napier seemed determined to end his college career on a high note. After a great performance on Monday night, he was able to bring his school another national title.
Rough Shooting Night from Kentucky
Heading into this game, the Wildcats shot 45.5 percent from the floor as a team. However, an overall rough shooting night against the Huskies may have been the big reason Kentucky was unable to ever take the lead.
The Wildcats went just 18-of-46 from the floor, shooting just 39.1 percent. The Huskies didn't shoot much better, however, making just 41.5 percent of their shots.
The biggest difference between the two teams was at the charity stripe. Connecticut went 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, but the Wildcats weren't nearly as good, going just 13-of-24. As Jon Solomon from AL.com pointed out, James Young was able to go 8-of-9 from the line, but the rest of the team went just 5-of-15.
James Young is 8 of 9 on FTs. Rest of Kentucky team: 5 of 15 on FTs. Hack a Cat.— Jon Solomon (@jonsol) April 8, 2014
Even though the Wildcats weren't the best team from the free-throw line heading into this game, a performance like this one had to be disappointing.
More Experienced Players
The Wildcats may have had the best recruiting class with an entire starting lineup of freshmen, but it was the experience of the Huskies that ended up being much more valuable.
Two of the Connecticut players had actually been to the national championship before in Napier and Niels Giffey. According to ESPN Stats & Info, they're the first two players in NCAA history to win a national title as both freshmen and seniors.
Shabazz Napier & Niels Giffey are the only players EVER to win the National Championship as freshmen and as seniors (had to play in both).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 8, 2014
Even though they were the more experienced team, the Huskies did get pretty emotional on the court at times. At one point, Napier actually shoved junior guard Ryan Boatright to get him in position, per Chris Chase of USA Today's For the Win.
Napier also had some choice words after the game about being banned from postseason play last year, according to the Associated Press via ESPN.com: "You're looking at the hungry Huskies. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when you banned us."
While these reactions may have been seen in a negative light, it says a lot more about just how determined Napier and the rest of the team were to win a national title and prove everyone who had doubted them wrong.