Sports

April 8, 2014

Back with a vengeance

UConn men win NCAA championship

(Continued)

ARLINGTON, Texas —

"We had our chances to win," Calipari said. "We're missing shots, we're missing free throws. We just didn't have enough."

Calipari said he decided not to foul at the end "because they're not missing."

In all, Calipari's One-and-Doners got outdone by a more fundamentally sound, more seasoned group that came into this tournament a seventh-seeded afterthought but walked away with the program's fourth national title since 1999. The Huskies were the highest seed to win it all since Rollie Massimino's eighth-seeded Villanova squad in 1985.

Napier and Boatright now go down with Kemba Walker, Emeka Okafor, Rip Hamilton, Ray Allen and all those other UConn greats. This adds to the school's titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011.

"When they say Ray, Rip, Ben, Emeka, Kemba — they'll soon say Shabazz," said their former coach, Jim Calhoun, who was in the crowd along with former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and a father-and-son team whose dance to the "Happy" song got huge applause when played on the big screen at AT&T Stadium.

The crowd was cheering for UConn at the end.

A short year ago, the Huskies were preparing for their first season in the new American Athletic Conference after being booted from the Big East and not welcomed by any of the so-called power conferences. Calhoun, who built the program, left because of health problems. And most damaging — the NCAA ban triggered an exodus of five key players to the NBA or other schools.

Napier stuck around. So did Boatright. And Calhoun's replacement, Kevin Ollie, figured out how to make their grit, court sense and loyalty pay off.

"It's not about going to the next level, it's not about going to the pros, but playing for your university, playing for your teammates," Niels Giffey said. "And I'm so proud of all the guys on this team that stuck with this team."

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