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The Connecticut Huskies celebrate after beating the Purdue Boilermakers 75-60 to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship game at State Farm Stadium on Monday, April 8, 2024, in Glendale, Arizona. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images/TNS)
The Connecticut Huskies celebrate after beating the Purdue Boilermakers 75-60 to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament National Championship game at State Farm Stadium on Monday, April 8, 2024, in Glendale, Arizona. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images/TNS)

‘We won — by a lot again’: Dan Hurley and UConn get back-to-back crowns, highlighting Final Four weekend

The Huskies are atop the college basketball mountaintop once again, their sixth time taking home the national title crown

After an exciting and eventful 2023-24 college basketball season, a champion has been crowned and, like 22-23, it’s the Connecticut Huskies. UConn defeated Purdue 75-60 in the title game, beating the Boilermakers by 15 for the Huskies’ 12th straight tournament win by 13+ points. This marks a two-year run that head coach Dan Hurley described as “up there in terms of the greatest two-year runs that a program maybe has ever had,” and for good reason, as the Huskies continued their dominance from a year ago, following it up in possibly an even more dominating fashion this time around.

“Obviously what could you say?” Hurley said. “We won — by a lot again.”

This was this weekend’s encore, though, as Saturday too gave fans entertaining games to watch. First, NC State and Purdue matched up in a game pitting a redemption-arc against a Cinderella story. These clashing storylines provided for a very exciting game, one that Purdue ran away with late, but not in too dominant of fashion. In the second game, Alabama met UConn in what ended up being a great game start to finish. While the Huskies did eclipse the 13+ point winning margin, this game was close throughout and the Crimson Tide even had control of the game in spurts. This all ended with the Huskies/Boilers matchup we saw on Monday, one that was highly anticipated, but where UConn won decisively, yet again. This was a great basketball weekend, so let’s break down all three games from this year’s 2024 Men’s Final Four in Arizona. 

No. 1 Purdue beats No. 11 NC State, No. 1 UConn beats No. 4 Alabama during National Semifinal Saturday

As mentioned, Saturday provided some great storylines and, in the end, some great games. Purdue and NC State got things started in a game that Purdue controlled, but NC State fought in for most of the game. It wasn’t the prettiest game on either side, but on the defensive end, both squads were very solid, although Purdue took the game 63-50. 

“I thought we were very competitive, played hard,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “We just didn't play great. I don't think either team played great. If you look at their run to get here and our run to get here, both teams were way better offensively than you saw today.”

This is most certainly the case, as the shooting numbers for both teams, 40 percent for Purdue and 37 for NC State, were both lower than their season averages, which could say a lot about both teams’ defenses. The Wolfpack, in particular, did an amazing job defending Zach Edey, limiting him to only 20 points, his lowest total of the tournament.

NC State forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) celebrates with his teammates after making a shot while getting fouled late in the second half of the Elite 8 South Regional Championship game of NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Sunday, March 31, 2024. NC State defeated Duke 76-64. (Chris Torres/Tribune Content Agency)

The offense for the Wolfpack was nothing special, but D.J. Horne provided a great performance for NCSU. He scored 20 points and was the focal point on offense the entire game, only missing one minute of action for the entire contest. D.J. Burns only had eight points, a bit of a disappointment for the fan-favorite, but his struggles should be a testament to the defense shown by Purdue.

Edey’s 20 points, along with D.J. Horne’s 20 for NC State, tied for the highest scoring total, while Edey also had 12 rebounds, continuing his double-double streak of every tournament game so far. 

This put Purdue in the national title game against the winner of the second semifinal, one that proved to be even better than the first. UConn may have taken the game handily in the final score, winning 86-72, but Alabama fought tooth and nail until the last few minutes, giving the Huskies a challenge that had yet to see this tournament or last.  Mark Sears had 24 points to lead the Tide.

While many Alabama players were great, UConn was simply better, with several players having incredible games, Stephon Castle led the scoring with 21, while Donovan Clingan was right behind him with 18. Especially on the defensive end, UConn showed why, even with Alabama shooting the lights out, it’s the better team. 

No. 1 UConn beats No. 1 Purdue, clinches its sixth national title and back-to-back championships

The semifinal games are always exciting, but there’s something special about the national championship and this year’s felt even more special. With two one-seeds matching up, especially with the quality of the teams and the storylines that followed them, fans across the country were anxiously waiting for this moment. Would UConn be the first team to go back-to-back? Would Purdue follow up Virginia and be the second team to win the title the year after losing to a 16 seed? Well fans would find out Monday night, in a highly anticipated game from the desert in Arizona.

This one started out close, with both teams playing up to their standard, most notably with Edey getting both Sampson Johnson and Clingan in foul trouble. Edey was getting his way early, but UConn was still in mild control of the game in the first half, the Huskies taking a 36-30 lead into the break. 

Head coach Dan Hurley of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates after defeating the Illinois Fighting Illini in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at TD Garden on March 30, 2024, in Boston. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images/TNS)

After halftime, UConn showed why it was the consensus No. 1 overall team, as well as the 2023 national champions. It imposed its will with ball movement, incredible sets, and Tristen Newton taking over on the offensive end. By the midpoint of the second half, UConn hd a double-digit lead and it almost seemed like it was over. Purdue folded the rest of the way and the Huskies won easily,

“To lose that much and, again, to do what we did again, it's got to be as impressive a two-year run as a program's had since prior to whoever did it before Duke,” Hurley said. “To me it is more impressive than what Florida and Duke did because they brought back their entire teams. We lost some major players.”

All this is incredibly true, but as for players who were on the floor for this one, they all played well and together as a team. Tristen Newton led the group with 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds, a performance that earned him Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Castle was also amazing, scoring 15 points and following up his semifinal performance beautifully. Cam Spencer and Clingan both had 11, with Spencer making an incredible impact on the defensive end. Hassan Diarra and Alex Karaban were also key on defense, as they didn’t score 10 or more, but made their presence known. Hurley said he loves players that “don’t make it about themselves” and that’s certainly true with this group, as his Huskies play well and play as a complete unit.

Purdue, on the other hand, did not play as a complete unit. It was the Edey show and the Edey show only, as he scored over 60 percent of the Boilermakers’ points. He had 37 points, including 10 rebounds, extending his double-double streak to every single one of his tournament games this year. Braden Smith was the only other scorer of note for Purdue, scoring 12 and hitting the only 3 the Boilers had all game. The rest of the offense was completely dormant, with just 11 points between the rest of the team. This, coupled with the fact they only hit one 3, seems to be the reason this game got out of hand in the second half, but you have to give UConn credit, as they had the perfect defensive gameplan.

This, plus the offensive performances of Newton, Castle and others, was the reason why the Huskies cut down the nets for the second year in a row, and sixth time overall. Like Hurley said, this team can and will go down in the history books, as well as the entire Final Four, as this year's storylines provided for a memorable and incredibly exciting end to the 2023-24 season. 

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