for this game

Top Dogs: Huskies beat Butler for title

Apr 5, 2011 - 5:28 AM


Houston, TX (Sports Network) - From the depths of the valley mired by NCAA inquiry to the top of the college basketball world, Connecticut took Butler's best punch but stood tall to win its third national championship, 53-41.

"We are brothers, we were trusting of each other," said UConn head coach Jim Calhoun. "This one means a lot."

Jeremy Lamb scored all 12 of his points in the second half, Kemba Walker led the way with 16 points and nine rebounds, and Alex Oriakhi posted a double- double of 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Huskies (32-9), who won five games in five days to take the Big East tournament in New York then rattled off six in a row to give Calhoun his third national championship, putting him in an exclusive club with John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski as the only head coaches with three or more national titles. Calhoun, 68, also became the oldest head coach to win a national championship, surpassing Fogg Allen, who won his last national championship at age 66 with Kansas.

"Coach gave me the keys (after last season)," said Walker. "From that point on, I just drove. I called these guys, told them that we were going to work hard."

Shelvin Mack scored 13 points with nine rebounds and Chase Stigall, who made just 1-of-13 three-pointers until Monday night, made three treys for nine points. Butler (28-10) shot a championship game-worst 18.8 percent from the floor and lost in the title game for the second straight season.

"Forty-one points is not good enough to win any game, let alone the national championship game, but I was proud of our guys. We got decent looks in the second half, but we missed quite a few," said Butler head coach Brand Stevens.

The Bulldogs' shooting woes allowed the Huskies to take command in the second half.

UConn went on a field-goal drought on its own that lasted approximately eight minutes spanning both halves before Walker connected on a jumper. Lamb then scored five straight and Walker made 1-of-2 free throws to cap eight straight points for a 27-25 lead.

The Bulldogs offense was anemic, bothered by the Huskies length but also missing clean looks from deep and several inside layups over a scoreless seven-minute stretch. Butler's six-point lead in the opening seconds of the second half became a double-digit deficit over time, as back-to-back layups by Lamb and Walker made the score 39-28. Butler scored its first points in the paint just before the six-minute mark, but Oriakhi countered with a slam and subsequent foul shot for a 43-30 advantage.

"We kept telling each other, 'Keep shooting, shots are going to go in.' It just wasn't happening," said Butler forward Matt Howard.

Butler got as close as eight, 49-41, on a Mack three-pointer with 1:41 to play, but never got closer.

Mack's late trey capped a first half marked by a mixture of suffocating defense and shaky shooting, but the Bulldogs took a 22-19 lead into the locker room.

The Bulldogs shot just 22 percent and made only one shot inside the arc, yet got the bigger, stronger Huskies in foul trouble and held Walker to 3-of-11 shooting.

At the first media timeout, the two teams were a combined 1-of-18 from the floor, and UConn's length was a major factor with three early blocks. Walker's first basket came nearly seven minutes into the contest after he missed his first five shots, and in a rare sight, he was taken out for the first time in four games approaching the 12:00 mark.

The Huskies scored 10 of their first 13 points in the paint, and the Bulldogs didn't convert a two-point field goal until Andrew Smith's bucket with 10:20 to play.

Mack didn't score until he made a free throw with just over nine minutes on the clock, and the Bulldogs collectively stayed in the game by racking up fouls on the Huskies, who saw both Lamb and Oriakhi saddled with two fouls each in the game's first 11 minutes.

The physical affair continued with UConn making seven of its first eight field goals in the paint and Butler relying on the perimeter, including Mack's first field goal, a trey to square the contest at 19-19 with just over four minutes on the clock.

Walker became the third Connecticut player with two fouls at the 2:46 mark, and neither team scored again until Mack's long three against tight defense as the clock ran down. The 41 combined points in a half were the fewest in a championship game since Oklahoma A&M played NYU in 1945, and the Huskies 19 were the fewest for a single team in a tournament final since 1960.

Game Notes

Butler was trying to become the first school outside a power conference to win the national championship since UNLV in 1990...UConn won its first title since 2004...Calhoun has been a head coach for 39 years, five more than Stevens has been alive...Connecticut finished ninth in the Big East during the regular season...The Huskies made 2-of-23 three-pointers in the Final Four...Connecticut was unranked in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll...Howard, Butler's second leading scorer, was nearly invisible, scoring seven points on 1-of-13 shooting with six rebounds...UConn held a 53-41 edge on the glass and a staggering 26-2 edge on points in the paint...Butler hung around by committing just six turnovers and turning 11 UConn miscues into 13 points...The Huskies 10 blocked shots tied a championship game record...Houston held a Final Four for the first time since 1971.