The big men may get a lot of the attention, and for good reason, but at the NCAA Final Four it was the guards that played a big role in deciding the semifinal. And that likely will be the case again in tonight’s title game.
Both backcourts from Connecticut (31-8) and Kentucky (29-10) played a crucial part in helping the two schools set up an unlikely championship game matchup tonight.
UConn overcame a slow start to pull away from Florida 63-53 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
The Huskies scored just four points in the first 11 minutes, but got on track once guard Shabazz Napier found DeAndre Daniels for a 3-pointer.
Napier drove in for a layup that gave UConn a 23-22 lead with 2:23 left in the first half and the Gators (36-3) never caught up.
The Huskies backcourt lineup of Napier, Niels Griffey, Ryan Boatwright and Terrance Samuel outscored the Gator backcourt 40-14.
Florida had a total of three assists for the entire game, only one of which came from a guard. The Gators backcourt also turned the ball over eight times compared to just five from the Huskies backcourt.
Florida came into the NCAA tournament as the top-ranked team and had a 30-game winning streak coming into the Final Four. But just as they did on Dec. 2, the Huskies beat the Gators.
The second game looked more like a boxing match as Wisconsin guards Ben Brust and Traveon Jackson traded blows with the Harrison brothers, Andrew and Aaron, from Kentucky.
Ultimately it was the Harrisons that led the Wildcats to a dramatic 74-73 win over the Badgers (30-8).
With the game tied at 71, the Badgers appeared to have caught a break. Jackson had the ball in his hands after a tough offensive possession and with the shot clock winding down he did his best Reggie Miller impression and drew a foul on Andrew on a 3-point attempt.
Wisconsin had made its first 17 free throws, but Jackson missed the first of three. That changed the approach for Kentucky and Aaron’s NBA range 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining gave the Wildcats the win, much like it did in the regional final against Michigan.
Andrew assisted on that play, but Wisconsin gave it one last go with Jackson on a mid-range jumper that missed in the final seconds.
Contact Albert Alvarado at firstname.lastname@example.org