6:09 PM ET, April 5, 2014
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Shabazz Napier looked up toward the Connecticut fans in the crowd at AT&T Stadium and held up one finger.
The Huskies had just beaten overall No. 1 seed Florida 63-53 on Saturday in the Final Four. But Napier's gesture had another meaning.
"One more to go," the first-team All-American said.
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The victory got them into Monday night's title game against Kentucky and it was as good as any team came up with this season against the Gators, who came in having won 30 straight games, a streak that started after a loss to the Huskies four months ago.
"We have been in a lot of dog fights," Napier said. "We are just an experienced group. We believe in each other and continue to believe in each other. ... We are going to win. That is what we do."
Especially against Florida.
The Gators lost only three times this season -- once to Wisconsin in the second game of the season and twice to the Huskies. The first time was on Dec. 2 when a foul-line jumper at the buzzer by Napier gave UConn a 65-64 victory.
They didn't have to wait that long to know they had this one.
The Huskies, the seventh seeds in the East Regional, had outstanding games on both ends of the court.
Napier helped seal this game with about 2 minutes to play when he made two free throws for a 59-47 lead. That margin was the deficit the Huskies (31-8) faced in the opening minutes after a cold-shooting start.
"I knew we was going to get back in the game. They knew we was going to get back in the game," second-year coach Kevin Ollie said. "We live and die on defense and hopefully everybody understands that."
With Ollie in a defensive stance himself most of the game, the Huskies sidetracked the Florida offense by shutting down point guard Scottie Wilbekin and 3-point specialist Michael Frazier II, who scored a combined seven points.
A Quiet Dynasty?
With Saturday's win, UConn is headed to the national title game for the fourth time since 1999 -- the most by any program during that time period.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
"UConn was very good with their pressure on our guards and we didn't convert points," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They scored a lot on as well. So all the credit goes to them."
The Huskies were impressive on offense, shooting 55.8 percent (24 of 43) from the field against a team that allowed opponents to shoot 39.9 percent this season.
"Whomever I put in the game, it was positive and they were productive," Ollie said.
DeAndre Daniels had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut, and it was his two 3-pointers in a span of 1:43 that helped ignite the Huskies after they had fallen behind 16-4.
"DeAndre was huge for us," Ollie said. "He stepped up and really rebounded for us and was pretty much unstoppable."
Napier, who leads the team in almost every category, finished with 12 points and six assists. He definitely got the better of Wilbekin in a matchup of senior point guards, both conference players of the year.
Napier had two key second-half steals on Wilbekin, both of which led to UConn baskets. Wilbekin was bothered by cramps throughout the game.
"It was right when the second half started. I was getting a little cramp, it wasn't too bad," Wilbekin said. "I got out of the game and got some ice and it wasn't really a problem from then on."
The Connecticut guards were. Florida had 11 turnovers and a season-low three assists.
"That's crazy, that's not usually what we do," Wilbekin said. "All credit goes to them and their guards and the way they were denying and putting pressure on us."
Patric Young had 19 points for Florida (36-3), which had won all of its NCAA tournament games by at least 10 points. The Gators shot just 38.8 percent from the field (19 of 49), well off their 46.1 percent average.
"Once they got their defense set, I thought we had a hard time dealing with their pressure up top," Donovan said.
The Huskies used 3-pointers to open things up inside, hitting 5 of 12 from long range. They had such an easy time scoring inside that they had only one basket outside the paint in the final 20 minutes, shooting 63.6 percent (14 of 22).
Florida was just 1 for 10 from 3-point range, and the Gators' most effective weapon through most of the game was an offensive rebound off a miss. They had 12 in the game and turned them into 13 points.
Florida's defense -- which was No. 3 in the nation -- was suffocating early, and the Gators took a 16-4 lead with a 7-0 run that was capped by a drive by Wilbekin with 9:47 to play.
The Huskies suddenly found their shooting touch. Connecticut made four straight shots and three of them were from beyond the 3-point line -- two by Daniels and another by Ryan Boatright. A drive by Napier gave the Huskies the lead for good, 23-22 with 2:20 left in the half.
In the second half, the Huskies stretched the lead to 59-47 with 2:04 left, turning the 12-point deficit into a 12-point lead. They are in the title for the fourth time, the first three all wins under coach Jim Calhoun.
Florida was looking to reach the national championship game for the first time since repeating as champions in 2007.
NCAA Mens Tournament
Around The NCAA Tournament
Deciding factor: UConn's defense. After falling behind 16-4, the Huskies buckled down and made nearly every shot the Gators took a difficult one. Florida shot just 38.8 percent from the floor and made just 1 of 10 3-point attempts.
Player of the game: UConn's DeAndre Daniels. The junior big man led the Huskies with 20 points and pulled down 10 of their 28 rebounds. He's the first player to record 20 points and 10 rebounds in a national semifinal game since Carmelo Anthony did the same for Syracuse in 2003.
Key stat: Florida's three assists are the fewest recorded by any team in a Final Four game since assists became an official statistic in the 1983-84 season.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||24-43 (.558)||19-49 (.388)|
|3P Made-Attempted||5-12 (.417)||1-10 (.100)|
|FT Made-Attempted||10-13 (.769)||14-20 (.700)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||16 (0/0)||14 (0/0)|
|» Apr 5, 2014||CONN 63, @FLA 53||Recap|
Only 4 teams entered the Final Four with 30-plus game winning streaks...and none of them have won the National Championship.[+]
30-Game Win Streaks Entering Final Four - Since Seeding Began in 1979
Connecticut was at its best when it inserted freshmen guard Terrence Samuel into the lineup alongside Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. In 18 minutes with Samuel on the court, the Huskies outscored Florida by 15 points and had 11 more points than they had in 22 minutes with him on the bench.[+]
Connecticut with Terrence Samuel On/Off Court
Kevin Ollie is the 3rd coach in the last 30 years to reach the national title game within his first 2 seasons as a Division I head coach, the first since Mike Davis for Indiana in 2002. Steve Fisher reached the title game in 1989 with Michigan in his first season after taking over as head coach right before the NCAA Tournament.[+]
Least Experienced Head Coaches - To Reach National Championship Last 30 Years
DeAndre Daniels joins Emeka Okafor as the only UConn players with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a Final Four game (Okafor did it in 2004 National Championship vs Georgia Tech). Daniels notched his 2nd double-double in 5 tournament games after 3 double-doubles in his first 32 games[+]
DeAndre Daniels This Season
DeAndre Daniels is the first player with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in a national semifinal win since Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony in 2003.[+]
At Least 20 Points & 10 Rebounds - National Semifinal Win Last 25 Years
Connecticut scored more points in the paint (26) in the second half than Florida had for the entire game (24).[+]
In the Paint
DeAndre Daniels put up a huge game in the win against Florida that sent Connecticut to the National Championship game... He is only the 3rd player to drop 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Gators in the Final Four.[+]
20 Points and 10 Rebounds - Against Florida in Final Four
With their win tonight, UConn is now 7-1 all-time in the Final Four, which is the best win percentage with a minimum of three games played.[+]
Best Win Pct in Final Four - NCAA Tournament History
DeAndre Daniels is the third player in the last 30 years with 20 points and 10 points in a Final Four win over the AP No. 1 team.[+]
20 Points and 10 Rebounds - In Final Four Win vs AP No. 1 Since 1985
If Connecticut can upend Florida in tonight's first Final Four game, the Huskies would be the 8th team to beat the No. 1 team in a semifinal. Five of the previous seven went on to win the title, most recently Kansas in 2008.[+]
Beat AP No. 1 in National Semifinal
Connecticut's defense stifled 2 offenses in different ways to advanced to the National Championship. They held Florida to 1-of-10 from 3 Saturday, and forced 11 turnovers while allowing 3 assists. They held the Spartans to just 6 points in the paint during the Elite 8.[+]
Offense Last 2 Games vs Connecticut
Florida is currently a 7-point favorite tonight against Connecticut in the Final Four... In the past 10 seasons, every team who was favored by 5 points or more in the Final Four has won the game outright and then won the National Championship. The last team who was an underdog of 5 points or more to win in the Final Four was Georgia Tech in 2004 (+5) and then Indiana in 2002 (+7).[+]
Shabazz Napier is averaging 23.3 points per game in the 2014 Men's Basketball Championship but he isn't doing it alone for Connecticut. DeAndre Daniels has added 17.0 points per game in the tournament and the two have combined for the 2nd-most points among teammates entering the Final Four in the last five seasons. The only pair with more points...former UConn players Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb in 2011.[+]
ESPN Stats & Information