Connecticut takes down Miami in Final Four to set up showdown with San Diego State in title game
Forward Adama Sanogo had a game-high 21 points and No. 4 Connecticut continued a historically dominant march through this NCAA men's basketball tournament with a 72-59 win against No. 5 Miami to reach Monday night's national championship game.
The Huskies will face No. 5 San Diego State, which beat No. 9 Florida Atlantic 72-71 in the first national semifinal on a last-second buzzer beater by guard Lamont Butler.
This has been an NCAA tournament for the ages for UConn, which has now beaten five teams by at least 13 points: No. 13 Iona (87-63), No. 5 Saint Mary's (70-55), No. 8 Arkansas (88-65), No. 3 Gonzaga (82-54) and the Hurricanes.
"We are a unique team in terms of our style of play, which hurts you in conference play because people are a lot more familiar," Connecticut coach Dan Hurley said. "They see you twice. The games are much more physical. When people see us for the first time with the two centers and all the shooting ... So we're a unique team."
While the Aztecs are the first team in men's tournament history to win Elite Eight and Final Four games by one point apiece, UConn was only the eighth team to reach the semifinals having defeated four opponents by 15 or more points.
This one, like the wins against Arkansas and Gonzaga, saw the Huskies in almost wire-to-wire control.
It was 9-0 after three minutes and 14-4 after seven minutes. While the Hurricanes evened the score at 19-19 with 8:20 left in the first half, UConn closed on an 18-5 run to lead 37-24 at halftime. The closest Miami would get in the second half was eight points, 53-45, following an Isaiah Wong 3-pointer with 11:40 remaining.
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The Huskies immediately answered with seven points in a row to push the lead back to 15, 60-45, with just over eight minutes left.
"I just think obviously the group has shown their quality so many times in terms of the level that we could play at," Hurley said. "And I think we experienced everything in that month of January. It's a battle-tested team. And obviously I was comfortable with the things we were calling, and the guys were able to manage the situation."
After a quiet game against Gonzaga (10 points on 3 of 11 shooting), Sanogo scored 13 of his points in the first half when he hit to 3-pointers in the first minutes and made 9 of 11 attempts overall. The junior is averaging 20.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in tournament play.
Sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins went 3 of 7 from 3-point range and scored 13 points. UConn was also sparked by the play of freshman center Donovan Clingan, who had four points, six rebounds and a block in 13 minutes.
The Huskies shot 49.1% from the field and held Miami to 32.3% shooting. While Wong led Miami with 15 points, UConn was able to slow down fellow guards Nijel Pack and Brandon Miller, who combined for 19 points on 7 of 20 shooting. It was a disappointing end after the program reached its first Final Four af
"It's been special each year," Miller said.
We just tried to build what every Miami basketball team should try to reach each season. I think we did a good job of laying down that foundation. Obviously it didn't end out the way we wanted it to, but regardless, at the end of the day, if you make history, school history, you're a winner in some shape or form.
While San Diego State had never advanced past the Sweet 16 before this season, UConn will play for the fifth national national championship in program history. The Huskies are 4-0 in title games, beating Duke (1999), Georgia Tech (2004), Butler (2011) and Kentucky (2014).
The program's first three championships came under Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, while the 2014 team was coached by Kevin Ollie. Hurley replaced Ollie in 2018 but failed to get the Huskies out of the first round in his previous two tournament appearances.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UConn tops Miami in Final Four to join San Diego State in title game