“I told you! I told you!”
Those were the words yelled by Connecticut Huskies senior guard Shabazz Napier as he ran around the court as the last seconds ticked off of the clock and the final score read, 60-54, UConn over Kentucky, for the 2014 National Men’s Basketball title.
Napier led the Huskies with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists as they beat out the talented all-freshmen cast of Kentucky. During the post-game trophy presentation ceremony, Napier took a shot at the NCAA for banning the Huskies from 2013 postseason play for poor academic progress rates.
“Honestly, I want to get everybody’s attention right quick,” Napier said. “You’re looking at the hungry Huskies. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens when you ban us … Two years! We worked so hard for it.”
UConn’s experienced and lightning-quick backcourt of Napier and junior guard Ryan Boatwright was too much for Kentucky to contain. Boatwright had 14 points, making five of six shots from the field.
After falling behind by double digits in the first half, Kentucky trailed by just four points in the final minute of the game. But senior Huskies guard Niels Giffey was fouled and nailed two free throws to make it 60-54 with 25 seconds left. UConn was a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, while Kentucky struggled, missing nine free throws (13-of-24).
“We’re missing shots, we’re missing free throws,” said Kentucky Coach John Calipari. “We just didn’t have enough.”
Down 60-54, Kentucky freshman guard Aaron Harrison, who made clutch three-pointers for Kentucky the entire tournament, gave it another shot. But the three rimmed out, and the rest was history as UConn claimed its fourth national championship, the second in four years.
Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie, who replaced the legendary Coach Jim Calhoun two years ago, is the 4th African-American head basketball coach to win an NCAA title. “Coach Calhoun, the greatest coach ever,” Ollie said after the game. “He paved the way. We just walked through it.”