The Huskies never seem to run out of surprises, never seem to run out of players, never seem to run out of resourcefulness. Nor will they run out of time. They have extended their season all the way to the national championship game. Florida, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, was shocked by No. 7 seed UConn 63-53 in the semifinal Saturday night before 70,000 at AT&T Stadium. The Huskies, who fell 12 points behind in the early going, never showed a hint of panic and grasped control of the game. Florida is known for its defense but it was UConn's defense that decided the outcome. And to those who believed that the Huskies' victory over Florida in December was some kind of fluke, they respectfully answered, "fluke that." DeAndre Daniels, breaking free as Florida bottled up UConn's guards, scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Huskies. Ryan Boatright scored 13 and Shabazz Napier had only 12, but both brought the ball pressure that broke down the Gators' offense. Once again, coach Kevin Ollie's game plan proved to be brilliantly effective. Ollie is now 5-0 as a head coach in the NCAA Tournament. His record in two seasons is 51-18. Now the Huskies (31-8), the first seventh seed to reach the Final Four, will play either Kentucky or Wisconsin for the national championship. UConn has won titles in 1999, 2004 and 2011, and if the Huskies win Monday night, this senior class of Napier, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander will be the first in school history to earn two championship rings. Florida (36-3) had won 30 games in a row since losing at UConn on Napier's buzzer-beater on Dec. 2. The Gators were playing shorthanded that night, leading many experts to say that they would blow out the Huskies in the high-stakes rematch. For a time, a brief time, it looked as if they might. Florida led 16-4 after nine minutes, but the Huskies began hitting from the perimeter, starting with a Daniels three-pointer, and put together an 11-0 run. "I talked to Jim Calhoun [Friday] and I said I'm going to go and play hard, prove everybody wrong," said Daniels. "I stepped up. Nobody gave us a shot to win this game." UConn outrebounded Florida for a long stretch and outscored the Gators 27-7 to open an eight-point lead. Florida made a run to make it a one-possession game, but UConn continued to outhustle the Gators and regained control with its speed. Daniels hit a jumper with 2:37 left to make it 57-47, and then Napier made two at the line to make it a 12-point lead and all but seal it with 2:08 left. The Huskies started out looking stymied by Florida's defense, and the Gators jumped out to a 7-2 lead before Daniels penetrated the lane and scored. Florida was keeping UConn's guards at bay — Patric Young's swatting away a floater by Boatright typifying that theme. Meanwhile, Florida was feeding the paint and either scoring or drawing fouls to jump out to a 13-4 lead. Neither team was shooting well from the perimeter, but the Gators were getting UConn's big men in foul trouble and killing the Huskies on the boards, starting with an 11-5 edge in the first 11 minutes. UConn, uncharacteristically, also turned it over six times during that span.
UConn Shocks Florida, Heads To National Championship
Hartford Courant | Apr 6