NCAA Tournament: UConn crush Purdue to retain men’s national title

UConn delivered the last of their suffocating basketball beatdowns Monday night, smothering Purdue for a 75-60 win and becoming the first men’s team since 2007 to capture back-to-back national championships.

Tristen Newton scored 20 points for the Huskies, who won their 12th straight March Madness game — none decided by fewer than 13 points.

UConn was efficient on offense, but won this game on defense. The Huskies (37-3) limited the nation’s second-best three-point shooting team to just seven shots behind the arc — Purdue made just one — while fortunately allowing 7-foot-4 AP Player of the Year Zach Edey to score for 37 points. going 25 shot attempts.

UConn joined the Florida Gators of 2006-07 and the Duke Blue Devils of 1991-92 as just the third men’s team to repeat since John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty of the 1960s and 1970s.

“I can’t even think about it,” coach Dan Hurley said. “You just know how tough this tournament is.”

Purdue reached this point a year after becoming just the second No. 1 seed in March Madness history to fall in the first round. But the Boilermakers (34-5) left the same way they came – still looking for the program’s first NCAA title.

In what should have been a free-for-all in this new age of transfer portal and name, image and likeness deals, UConn has figured out how to dominate.

The 2024 Huskies are the sixth team to win all six tournament games by double-digit margins. They won those games by a total of 140 points, moving past the previous record of 121 set by the 2009 North Carolina team for the highest margin among that exclusive club.

“We’re just recruiting really talented NBA players who are willing to not make it about themselves, and be part of a winning group, to go for all the championships,” Hurley said.

Cam Spencer, a transfer from Rutgers, Stephon Castle, a freshman, and Alex Karaban, a sophomore from last year’s team, spent the night guarding the three-point line and making life difficult for Purdue’s guards.

Edey fought valiantly and finished with 10 rebounds, recording his 30th double-double of the season. But this game proved the number crunchers right. UConn let Edey back in and back down on 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan all night, giving up tough twos in exchange for threes.

Meanwhile, as Edey started to tire, the Huskies took the ball right to him. Castle finished with 15 points and both Spencer and Clingan had 11, and it hardly mattered that UConn made just six 3-pointers, which was right in line with their season average.

Hurley joins former Florida coach Billy Donovan in the back-to-back club, joining Bill Self and Rick Pitino as the third active coach with two championships.

“The message was we were the best team in the country,” Hurley said of his pre-game conversation with his players. “Purdue was clearly the second-best team in the country. Play with our identity, be who we have been all year, and then we will become champions.”