53-41. Not your average National Championship game, huh?
In a wild college basketball season where there has been no clear cut best team, it has finally come to an end—an ugly end, in fact. The Connecticut Huskies won their third National Championship Monday night, grinding it out against the feisty Butler Bulldogs in a low-scoring, cold shooting battle.
You simply do not expect games like this in the National Championship.
Both teams struggled all night shooting the basketball, with Butler shooting a shocking 12-64 from the field. For those of you counting at home, that is 18 percent. All tournament long, Butler had been shooting well and got timely buckets out of guys like Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard.
That was not the case tonight, however.
Butler could never get into a rhythm offensively, missing shot after shot. They never could get going inside the pain, scoring a grand total of just two points from inside there. In the first half alone, Butler shot 22 percent, got out-rebounded by eight and got out scored 14-0 in the pain. Yet somehow, they led by three points.
That had to be promising for Butler, and it could only get better, right?
After back-to-back Shelvin Mack threes—including one at the buzzer to put the Bulldogs up 22-19—you thought that just maybe, this could be the start of something. Could Butler carry this momentum into the second half?
Things started off perfectly in the second half as well. Chase Stigall started things with a three-pointer to put the Bulldogs up six points, but there was no more of that to come. Little did Butler know that they would score just sixteen points the rest of the game.
After a Jeremy Lamb three-pointer to put Connecticut up 26-25 with 17:49 remaining, the Huskies never looked back. Butler could never make a run, and their bid for a National Title ended.
Connecticut frustrated Butler all night with their length, out-rebounding them 51-40, and out blocking them 10-2. Every time Butler tried to go inside, they had no luck.
Let's not sit here and act like Connecticut played a perfect game, however. But for how this game was played, they did. The Huskies shot just 34 percent from the field, but their defense was the key. But as Jay Bilas pointed out, no defense is good enough to hold a team to 18 percent shooting. There was also some luck involved.
This was a painful game to watch rooting for Butler, and I cannot even imagine how painful it must have been for the Bulldogs themselves. After coming oh so close a season ago against Duke in the National Championship, Butler made another improbable run this year, and wanted to finish off what they could not do last season. Unfortunately though, it was not a fairy tale ending. Instead, Jim Calhoun joins John Wooden, Bob Knight, Adolph Rupp and Mike Krzyewski with three national titles.
As for Butler, they have so much to be proud of after what they've done the last two seasons.
The players on the team have bought into Brad Stevens, and they play together as a team as good as anybody in the country. It's a shame they could not win a National Championship either of these seasons. But with Stevens aboard, I get the feeling that this is not the last you will hear of the Butler Bulldogs.
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