UConn cruises past Miami in Final Four, will face San Diego State in Monday’s championship game

Apr 1, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Connecticut Huskies forward Adama Sanogo (21) controls the ball against Miami (Fl) Hurricanes forward Norchad Omier (15) during the first half in the semifinals of the Final Four of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UConn cruises past Miami in Final Four, will face San Diego State in Monday’s championship game

It was a tale of two different Final Four games on Saturday at NRG Stadium. The first game of the night was a barn-burner, but the UConn Huskies dominated the Miami Hurricanes for much of the night’s second game to advance to Monday’s national championship against San Diego State.

UConn defeated Miami 72-59.

“We were just all over our identity today,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “Plus nine on the glass. Obviously, the turnovers at times got a little bit sloppy, but we were sitting on that 20-plus assist number.

“We were hurting them on the inside. Hurting them from the perimeter. Obviously, the defense was the key, though. The effort that these guys gave defensively was unbelievable.”

The Huskies jumped on top of the Hurricanes right out of the gates with a trio of 3-point baskets to build a 9-0 lead. That advantage grew to 14-4 after another UConn triple from senior guard Tristen Newton, which left the Hurricanes scrambling to find answers, head coach Jim Larrañaga said.

“We were never in sync offensively,” Larrañaga stated. “We struggled. Guys were playing hard, trying their best, but it wasn’t the script we were looking for. And some of that credit goes to Connecticut and the defense they played.”

Despite the slow start, Miami put together a 15-5 run and tied the game at 19 during the first half after a 3-point basket from sophomore guard Nijel Pack. Four different Hurricanes scored during the rally.

The Huskies, however, answered with an 8-0 run of their own, which grew into an 18-5 run to end the first half. Redshirt freshman forward Alex Karaban added the icing on the cake for UConn with a 3-point basket as time expired, giving the Huskies a 37-24 lead heading into the break.

UConn busted the game wide open early in the second half with back-to-back layups from junior forward Adama Sanogo. The Huskies’ lead reached 20 points after more points from Karaban and sophomore guard Hawkins.

The key to UConn’s run was holding the Hurricanes to only two points for nearly the first four minutes of the second half.

“Obviously, Andre [Jackson] is one of the best defenders not only on our team but in the nation,” senior guard Tristen Newton said. “[Isaiah] Wong is a really good player. He got in the gaps. That was the game plan the whole time. Get in the gap, force them to shoot tough shots.”

Despite falling behind, Miami showed its fight by getting the deficit to just eight points toward the middle of the second half.

3-pointers from sophomore guard Bensley Joseph and Wong, a couple of fast-break baskets off of turnovers, and free throws from sophomore forward Norchad Omier made the Hurricanes’ deficit just 53-45.

The run was not enough, however. UConn responded by scoring seven straight points to build its lead back up to 15 points and held steady the rest of the way. Sanogo led the Huskies with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. He also had 10 rebounds, giving him a double-double.

“[Sanogo] got a layup. They ran a ball screen. He rolled. He scored in that situation. He got offensive rebounds. He was blocking us out, so he’s a terrific player,” Larrañaga said.

Hawkins added 13 points. Karaban had eight points and nine rebounds. As a team, UConn out-rebounded Miami, 41-32. The Huskies had 19 assists. UConn also had 15 turnovers, but Miami was only able to turn them into 13 points.

The NCAA Tournament’s national championship game between UConn and San Diego State is slated for an 8:20 p.m. CT tipoff from NRG Stadium on Monday night.

“It means a lot to us,” said Sanogo on reaching the championship game. “It means everything we work for. The work has paid off, and [it is] still going.”

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