Apr 3, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Darrion Trammell (12) shoots the ball against Connecticut Huskies guard Tristen Newton (2) during the second half in the national championship game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
UConn Huskies weather second-half San Diego State rally to win fifth national championship in program history, 76-59
Connecticut’s dominating run in the NCAA Tournament was put to the test by San Diego State in Monday’s championship game at NRG Stadium, but ultimately, the Huskies had too much length and too many weapons for the Aztecs to overcome.
When the final buzzer sounded, it was the UConn Huskies that had won its fifth men’s basketball national championship, 76-59.
Even though SDSU ended up losing by double-digits, the Aztecs showed their poise and fight in a game that seemed to be in danger of being a lopsided blowout. UConn dominated San Diego State for much of the first half. At one point, the Aztecs went 11 minutes of game action without scoring a single field goal.
UConn built up its lead to as much as 16 late in the first half before the Aztecs closed the period by scoring the final four points and giving themselves some momentum to build from.
San Diego State senior guard Matt Bradley hit a basket to get within 10 right out of the gate in the second half. What ensued after can best be described as a tug of war between two teams trying to change the momentum of the game.
The Huskies built the lead back up to 12 points, but the Aztecs managed to keep the scoreboard moving as well. Whether it was a second-chance layup from Butler or a 3-pointer from senior guard Adam Seiko, SDSU refused to let UConn put the game away.
A layup from Donovan Clingan put UConn up by 15 toward the middle of the second half, but as it has for much of its NCAA Tournament run, San Diego State had an answer.
It began with a 3-pointer from Butler. While the Huskies matched the shot with a 3-pointer of their own from graduate student guard Joey Calcaterra, the Aztecs kept scoring. Houston native Jaedon LeDee hit back-to-back jumpers in the paint, and then senior forward Keshad Johnson hit a 3-pointer to get within eight points.
After UConn junior guard Andre Jackson threw the ball away, and the Aztecs capitalized by turning it into a layup from Darrion Trammell to cut the deficit to 56-50. UConn responded by pushing the lead back up to nine, but SDSU kept playing with desperation.
A layup from Butler off another UConn turnover made it 60-53, and then a pair of free throws from Johnson made it just 60-55. However, for the Aztecs, that is where their run would run out of gas.
UConn got a big 3-pointer from Hawkins with 5:02 left in the second half that pushed the lead back up to eight. Then Newton hit two free throws and a layup to make it 67-55 and ultimately put the game out of reach.
The Huskies ended the game on a 15-4 run. Newton led UConn in scoring with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Adama Sanogo had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Hawkins had 16 points. For SDSU, Johnson led the way with 14 points.
Monday’s championship game also marked the final college basketball game that legendary broadcaster and University of Houston alumnus Jim Nantz will call in his career.