In the year of the underdog, it was the UConn Huskies who have emerged victorious.
The University of Connecticut Huskies trounced the San Diego State Aztecs in the 2023 NCAA Men’s National Championship game. UConn walked away with a 76-59 victory for their fifth national title in program history and their first title since 2014.
Tristen Newton, Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins combined for 52 points for the Huskies. Newton and Sanogo both racked up a pair of double-doubles on the night as well.
Sanogo was subsequently named the 2023 NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He averaged 19.6 points and 9.8 rebounds in six games of tournament play for UConn. Sanogo, a practicing Muslim, managed to do all this while fasting for Ramadan.
UConn's Adama Sanogo was named the 2023 Most Outstanding Player of the Men's NCAA Tournament.
He's been observing Ramadan in the last four games of the tourney. Sanogo in that stretch:
◽️ 17 PTS | 10 REB
◽️ 21 PTS | 10 REB
◽️ 10 PTS | 10 REB
◽️ 18 PTS | 8 REB pic.twitter.com/I3OFKR6IXG
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) April 4, 2023
The Huskies outperformed the Aztecs in nearly every way, shape and form during Monday’s championship game.
UConn shot 43.4% from the field to San Diego State’s 32.2%.
The Aztecs also went an abysmal 6-for-23 from the three-point line, while coughing up 12 turnovers and committing 20 fouls.
With the Aztecs struggling all night long, Connecticut managed to take and keep control for the majority of the game.
Hanging On for Dear Life
San Diego State held their own for the first few minutes of the game. After a pair of threes from Lamont Butler and Darrion Trammell, they knocked down two more mid-range jumpers to take a 10-6 lead over UConn just three minutes into the evening. That ended up being their largest (and final) lead of the game.
The Huskies began to chip away at the Aztecs, with Sanogo knocking in a jumper to tie things up and eventually scoring a lay-up to take the lead.
San Diego State failed to score for six minutes straight, while UConn took a 16-10 lead. Eventually, Keshad Johnson hit a pair of free throws to snap the Aztecs’ scoreless streak.
UConn proceeded to respond to this with a 17-5 run to turn the game from a tight contest into a one-sided blowout.
Newton capped off the Huskies’ run with seven straight points and a deep three-ball to extend the lead to 16 points. Both sides went relatively quiet in the final three minutes of the first half.
By the halftime break, UConn lead San Diego State 36-24.
— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) April 4, 2023
UConn Survives a Scare
Neither side got off to a particularly strong start in the second half. In the first four minutes of play, the two squads combined for just 11 points. Six of those points came on free throws (four for SDSU, two for UConn).
As the half went on, the Aztecs slowly started to chip back away at the Huskies lead. At one point, Johnson knocked down a three-pointer to trim their deficit back down to just eight points. Trammell then stole the ball from UConn’s Andre Jackson Jr. and converted on a fast-break layup. With just under eight minutes remaining, UConn now hung on to a 56-50 lead.
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) April 4, 2023
After a few more minutes of back-and-forth, the Huskies finally began to put distance between themselves and the Aztecs once again.
With under four minutes to go, Newton knocked in a pair of free throws, snagged a rebound on the other end and scored on a lay-up to put UConn up by 12 points.
Sanago chipped in with two free throws of his own to extend that lead to 14. San Diego State still refused to give in easily.
Nonetheless, after trading a few more blows, the Aztecs had to bow their heads in defeat.
Monday’s championship matchup served as the grand finale for a roller-coaster of a 2022-23 season. From the preseason No. 1-ranked North Carolina Tarheels missing the NCAA tournament entirely to a barrage of postseason upsets along the way, this year certainly had its fair share of drama on the court.
With this season now officially in the books, it will go down as one that fans, players and coaches alike will not forget any time soon.