UConn routs Purdue to win first back-to-back men’s NCAA basketball titles since 2007

CNNConnecticut became the first Division I men’s college basketball team to win back-to-back championships since Florida 17 years ago, as the Huskies downed Purdue 75-60 in the NCAA title game Monday.

“You can’t even wrap your mind around it because you just know how hard this tournament is,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said after the game in Glendale, Arizona. “What a special group of people, a special coaching staff and incredible group of players. The best group of players you could possibly do it with and UConn. UConn’s a special place this time of year and they give us all the resources we need to do it like this in March and April.”

The Huskies (37-3) have now won six national championships, third all-time in men’s NCAA Division I basketball. All six have come since 1999, more than any other men’s team in that span and second only during that time to the school’s women’s team (10).

Four of UConn’s five starters finished with double-digit points. The Huskies were led by All-America guard Tristen Newton with 20 points and seven assists. Guard Stephon Castle had 15 points. Guard Cam Spencer and center Donovan Clingan each had 11 points.

“Credit to my teammates and coaching staff for putting me in the right positions to make plays, score, get people involved and get the win tonight,” said Newton, who was selected as Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

National player of the year Zach Edey scored 37 points and had 10 rebounds for Purdue, which finished the season 34-5.

The game was close throughout the first half before the Huskies went on a 15-7 run to propel themselves from a 2-point deficit to a 36-30 lead at the intermission. Newton scored 11 points in the period.

Edey had 16 first-half points, and during one stretch early in the period the 7-foot-4 center scored all 11 Purdue points. But the deficit at half was the first time the Boilermakers trailed after the first 20 minutes in the tournament.

Everything went right for UConn in the second half as the Huskies pulled away to join Cincinnati, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, UCLA and San Francisco as schools that became repeat champions.

In the second half, the Huskies used an 8-2 run to take a double-digit lead. More importantly, they kept Edey in check, in total holding him scoreless for nearly 12 minutes – six minutes to end the first half and the beginning of the second. The Boilermakers were also limited from the 3-point line, going 1-for-7 in the game.

“We were going to go to the well with Zach as much as we could at that point,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said of Purdue’s second-half troubles. “In a game like this, we had to be able to rebound defensively better, and then we had to have something balance that out. That was threes. They (UConn) stayed home with us. They did a really good job defensively.”

The Huskies shot 48.4% for the game and made six more field goals than the Boilermakers, five of which were 3-pointers.


UConn has been a dominant force in men’s college basketball in the last 25 years, winning six titles since 1999, nearly a quarter of the championships contested. Its tournament prowess was on show this this year, outclassing team after team as it bulldozed its way to the final.

UConn boasted the nation’s best scoring margin as a result of the most efficient offense in the country and a top-five defense.

Its dominance on both sides of the ball was on full display in the Elite Eight against Illinois. With the score tied at 23 in the final minutes of the first quarter, the Huskies went on a relentless 30-0 run to completely shutout Illinois for almost nine minutes en route to a 77-52 victory.

On its quest to become repeat champions, UConn won all six games in a single NCAA tournament by 13-plus points for a second straight year. Last year, the Huskies became the first program in men’s Division I history to accomplish the feat.

Runners-up again for the Boilermakers

The Midwest Region champion, Purdue, was trying to banish prior demons in a quest for its first national championship title. The Boilermakers last appeared in the NCAA championship game in 1969, where they were runners-up.

They had a point to prove this year after crashing out last season in the tournament’s second-ever 16-over-1 upset defeat. That disappointment continued 44 years of continuous heartbreak for Purdue, who have consistently fallen short of expectations, succumbing to bad luck and shock defeats.

“We didn’t run from it. We talked about how we felt about losing, we talked about how we were going to grow from it,” Purdue forward Mason Gillis said after the Boilermakers beat North Carolina State in their Final Four game on Saturday.

“We didn’t just talk about it, we walked the walk. I don’t want to say we wouldn’t be in this situation if we didn’t lose to them, but it definitely fueled us; sitting in that loss, seeing it on social media 24/7, seeing it on TV.”

The Boilermakers flipped the narrative this year, blowing out Grambling State and Utah State in the opening two rounds before defeating No. 5 Gonzaga 80-68 in the Sweet 16.

Then they narrowly took the win against No. 2 seed Tennessee in the Elite Eight and downed No. 11 seed North Carolina State in the Final Four to earn a shot at the first national championship in program history.

But once again the Big Ten champs came up short in the final game of the season.

CNN’s Homero De la Fuente contributed to this report.