Connecticut Seeks Third Title, Butler First in NCAA Basketball Tournament

The University of Connecticut will be seeking its third national title. Butler University will be back in the men’s basketball final, looking for its first championship.

Connecticut advanced to tomorrow’s championship game with a 56-55 victory against the University of Kentucky last night, and Butler beat Virginia Commonwealth University 70-62.

Butler, which upset top-seeded Pittsburgh 71-70 on its way to the final, is making its second straight appearance in the National Collegiate Athletic Association title game after losing last year to Duke. Connecticut claimed the championship in 1999 and 2004.

“I saw (Butler) today and I saw what they did to Pitt,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said in a televised interview. “We’ve got a heck of a challenge on Monday night, but the fact that we’re playing Monday night, that’s beautiful.”

Shabazz Napier, who had a total of four points, hit two free throws in the final seconds to put the Huskies ahead 56-52 and out of reach by the Wildcats even with Brandon Knight’s 3- pointer at the buzzer.

“The kids decided they didn’t want to go home,” Calhoun said. “This was too much fun, so we’re sticking around until Monday.”

After trailing 31-21 at halftime, Kentucky (29-9) opened the second half with a 14-2 run that included four 3-pointers -- the last two by Doron Lamb -- to take the lead. Connecticut (31- 9) rallied in the final four minutes of the second half.

‘Little Surreal’

Kemba Walker had 18 points and Jeremy Lamb added 12 for Connecticut.

“Amazing, things are a little surreal,” Walker said. “We’ll see if we can bring it back to Storrs.”

Knight scored 17 for the Wildcats and Doron Lamb had 13.

Butler’s Shelvin Mack scored 24 points to lead the Bulldogs, who lost to Duke 61-59 in last year’s championship game.

“Last year, we didn’t get it done, so that’s in the back of our minds,” Mack said in a courtside interview.

Matt Howard had 17 points and Zach Hahn came off the bench to score his eight points in a two-minute span midway through the second half to give Butler control of the game yesterday at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

“Everybody guarded, everybody stayed together, and that’s what this is all about,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said in a televised interview.

Butler (28-9), an Indianapolis-based university that had a 34-28 lead at halftime, had a 44-30 rebounding advantage against VCU (28-12).

VCU’s Jamie Skeen was high scorer for the game with 27 points and Bradford Burgess added 15 for the Rams, of Richmond, who were making their first appearance in the Final Four.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.