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The newest men’s collegiate basketball champions: University of Connecticut

Written by: Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

The University of Connecticut clinched back-to-back National Collegiate Athletic Association — NCAA — men’s basketball championships over Purdue University on April 8, 2024. 

The first half was a close match-up, but UConn went on a 15-7 run from a point deficit to pull ahead at the half. This deficit was the first time Purdue trailed after the first 20 minutes of play. 

In the second half, UConn’s run of 8-2 was used to bring their double-digit lead. But, most importantly for the team, they kept Purdue’s seven foot four inches tall center, Zach Edey, scoreless for a total of 12 minutes of play. UConn also limited Purdue at the 3-point line — the Boilermakers went one for seven in the second half. In the entire tournament, UConn only trailed for a total of five minutes and 42 seconds, never trailing by more than five points. 

“We were going to go to the well with Zach as much as we could at that point,” Purdue Head Coach Matt Painter said, talking about his team’s second-half trouble. “In a game like this, we had to be able to rebound defensively better, and then we had to have something balance that out. That was threes. They (UConn) stayed home with us. They did a really good job defensively.”

UConn is the eighth team to win back-to-back championships — the University of Florida was the last team to achieve this in 2007. This is also UConn’s sixth championship, becoming the fourth team to win six or more championships in their program’s history. This feat has been achieved by the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Kentucky and the University of North Carolina. 

All of UConn’s championship wins have occurred since 1999, which is more than any other men’s team in that same span, and are second only to UConn’s women’s team, who have won 10.

Purdue has never won a national championship, despite appearing in the Final Four three times. They have only appeared in a championship game once, which was this most recent appearance. 

However, it was not a UConn player who led the game in stats. Edey claimed a double-double — scoring 37 points and 10 rebounds in Purdue’s defeat. Four of UConn’s five starters scored in double digits: Tristen Newton scored 20, Stephon Castle scored 15, while Cam Spencer and Donovan Clingan both scored 11. 

“Credit to my teammates and coaching staff for putting me in the right positions to make plays, score, get people involved and get the win tonight,” said Newton. Newton was selected as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. 

“You can’t even wrap your mind around it, because you just know how hard this tournament is,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said post-game. “What a special group of people.”

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