Connecticut tops Kentucky, advances to title game

A quick take on Connecticut’s 56-55 win over Kentucky to advance to the NCAA tournament championship game:

How the game was won: Another missed 3 in the closing moments propelled the Huskies (31-9) to the win over Kentucky (29-9). With nine seconds left and the Huskies leading, 54-52, DeAndre Liggins launched a contested 3-pointer over Jeremy Lamb that missed. Shabazz Napier grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws, before Brandon Knight hit a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer. This came one game after Arizona’s Derrick Williams missed a key shot from beyond the arc in the closing seconds against the Huskies. Connecticut hung on for a 65-63 win in that game.

Freshmen mistakes: Liggins’ miss must’ve come as a huge sigh of relief for Connecticut’s Lamb and Napier, both freshmen. With 49 seconds left and the Huskies winning 54-51, Liggins caught the ball in the left corner and pump faked for 3, drawing Lamb in the air. Lamb came down and fouled Liggins as he shot, but upon review, Liggins’ foot was on the line and he only ended up with two free throws. After Liggins missed the second of the two free throws, Brandon Knight stole the ball from Napier and called timeout, setting up the dramatic final play.

Star gazing: Kemba Walker was brilliant again, scoring 18 points while adding seven assists and six rebounds. On the other side, Knight had a nightmare of a game. He scored 17 points, but shot 6 of 23 from the field and was just 3 for 11 from downtown.

Stat crunching: Knight didn’t get much help, as the Wildcats shot 33.9 percent from the field, and 9 of 27 from beyond the arc. Even with the poor shooting from downtown, the Wildcats shot it better than the Huskies, who shot 1 of 12. Another key stat to look at was free throw shooting. Kentucky was 4 for 12, while Connecticut was 9 for 11.

Big East implications: The streak comes to an end. For the first time since the formation of the 16-team Big East, the conference will have a team playing in the title game. Even though the Big East had only one team in the Elite 8 after sending 11 teams dancing, Connecticut advancing to the finals saves some face.

What’s next: Connecticut will take on No. 8 Butler, who defeated VCU 70-62 in the other semifinal, on Monday. Butler is in the finals for the second straight year, while Connecticut is back for the first time since 2004.

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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