Butler Falls To UCONN In Men's Basketball Final

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The University of Connecticut clinched its third national title, beating Butler University 53-to-41 in Monday night's NCAA men's basketball championship.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

You know, when you work this job you go to bed very, very early, which means you are likely to miss nighttime events like the NCAA men's college basketball championship unless you realize that a small school from your home state is playing.

If you're from Indiana, as I am, and the Butler Bulldogs are playing Connecticut you stay up to watch much of the first half, which looks promising. And later, unable to sleep, you wake up to catch the final score - 53-41. I can't bear to say another word, so let's turn it over to NPR's Mike Pesca.

MIKE PESCA: The Bulldogs were underdogs but they knew the score - control UConn's Kemba Walker, play solid defense, get to lose balls, make enough baskets. The top dog Huskies also had their game plan down - shake free, use their size, speed and athleticism. There was one problem for both these teams who knew the shot.

Mr. ANDREW SMITH: I mean, shots just weren't falling for us tonight.

Mr. RONALD NORED: I got a couple open shots and just missed them.

Mr. BRAD STEVENS: It's basketball, you know. Sometimes just don't fall.

Mr. JEREMY LAMB: You're not always going to make shots. That's part of the game.

PESCA: Now, with Andrew Smith and Ronald Nored of Butler, along with their coach Brad Stevens, and also Jeremy Lamb of UConn. The best laid plans of dogs and men went awry in the Reliant Dome last night.

Lamb was scoreless in the first half. UConn's high scorer Kemba Walker took 19 shots to make 16 points. The bulldogs were worse, a lot worse. They missed 52 shots on the night, and they made only 12. Of those 12, only 3 were 2 pointers.

It's hard to know who to credit and who to blame for the team's worst shooting performance of the season, but Stevens tried.

Mr. BRAD STEVENS (Head Coach, Butler University): The bottom line was I thought they just contested shots better than anybody we played all year and maybe in the last two years. They were long. They were athletic. They were active. They were really in tune.

PESCA: Perhaps the best way to think about it is to just accept that there would be the proverbial lid on the basket and strategize different ways to score anyway. UConn's Alex Oriakhi�did find a way. He had 11 points to go with his 11 rebounds and was a main reason why UConn outscored Butler 26 to 2 from down low.

Mr. ALEX ORIAKHI (University of Connecticut): The big men were able to, you know, do whatever they wanted in the post, so, and I took that to my advantage. And I saw nobody could guard me in there and I was able to go to work.

PESCA: For the most part, the Butler players cited bad bounces or bad luck. But freshman forward Khyle Marshall was alone in saying his team may have also been a bit surprised that UConn had ways to win not named Walker.

Mr. KHYLE MARSHALL (Butler University): You know, I think we really underestimated their bigs, to be honest, coming into this game. I mean, our game plan in this game was to contain Kemba, Lamb and Napier, which we did a really good job of Kemba, (unintelligible) only 16 points. Their bigs came in the game and just really stepped up.

PESCA: The win makes Jim Calhoun the oldest coach to win a title. At 68, he joins John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Bobby Knight and Adolph Rupp as coaches who've won three or more.

It was also a victory that was quite reflective of the coach's personality.

Mr. JIM CALHOUN (Head Coach, University of Connecticut): to me that's beauty. That's what this game should be about. That's what this game should be about. And yeah, you'd like a few more baskets made certainly, but it was two teams that weren't going to give into each other and finally our superiority took over. But, damn, I loved it in the sense of the fact of the fight and competitiveness between the two teams.

PESCA: Brad Stevens of Butler joins a short list of back-to-back losers. How horribly unfair. Butler's 19-to-22 year olds played their hearts out to greater effect than 343 teams in Division 1 men's basketball. To be better than 344, sometimes the shots just have to fall.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, Houston.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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