HOUSTON (AP) — No one was defending the best player at UConn. So Adama Sanogo spun the ball to get his fingers in the right place, got his feet behind the 3-point line and took the shot. Then, less than a minute later, he did it again.
It was as much a basketball clinic as it was a video highlight, and it all fits right in with the Huskies methodically rampaging through a March Madness huddle that has been a free-for-all everywhere else.
UConn dished out another drama-free beating on Saturday, getting 21 points and 10 rebounds from Sanogo to dispatch Miami 72-59 and pull within one victory of the school’s fifth national title.
“There are a lot of teams that want to play on Monday,” Sanogo said. “It means a lot to us.”
Jordan Hawkins overcame his stomach problem and scored 13 for the Huskies, who reached this the most unexpected Final Four as the only team with experience in the last weekend of college basketball and with the best seed of the four teams in Houston, at No. 4.
Against fifth-seeded Miami, they were the best team on the court from start to finish. Starting with three straight 3-pointers, a Hawkins jumper and two of those set shots from Sanogo, UConn took a quick 9-0 lead and never trailed.
“This is something I worked on all summer, especially shooting,” Sanogo said.
On Monday, in the title game, the Huskies will face San Diego State, which became the first team to ring the buzzer while trailing in a Final Four game. for a 72-71 victory over the Florida Atlantic. UConn was an early favorite by 7 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
“They’re one of the best teams in the country,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said of the Aztecs. “And I think it’s fitting that we both have earned our way into this title game.”
But while the early game was a historic milestone, the night’s cup was just more of the same from the Huskies (30-8).
The 13-point win was UConn’s closest since the brackets came out. The Huskies are the sixth team since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 to reach the title game with five straight double-digit wins. Is an impressive list of giants with a gift for closing: four of the first five won the championship.
Some thought Miami (29-8), with its fifth-ranked offense in the nation and four players who have scored 20 points at least three times this season, might be the team to slow down this Huskies juggernaut. Not to be.
Isaiah Wong led the ‘Canes with 15 points on 4-of-10 shooting. Constantly harassed by Sanogo, 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan, and the rest of Connecticut’s long-armed, lanky perimeter players, Miami, which came in with the fifth-best offense in the nation, shot 25 percent in the first half and 33.3% for the game.
“Obviously, what we tried to do not only didn’t work, I couldn’t even admit it,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “Offensively we weren’t in sync, but defensively as well.”
Not that UConn was all boring. The Huskies enjoyed their own brand of buzzer in the form of an Alex Karaban 3-pointer that sent the Huskies to the locker room leading by 13 points at halftime.
They built it to 20 before the first TV timeout of the second half. By then, Jim Nantz, calling his last Final Four, could start reserving his voice for Monday.
Miami got it under double digits a few times, but this never got interesting.
Not Helpful: Hurricane Watch nijel package he was lost about five minutes after the managers had trouble finding a replacement for a torn shoe. Pack finished with eight points, and Jordan Miller, who made all 20 shots he made from the floor and the line in the Miami Elite Eight victory, was 4-of-10 for 11 points. Only one Miami player made more than half of his shots.
“I’m a defensive guy first and foremost,” Hurley said. “I love the way we protect them. They’re one of the best offenses in the country, and we really disrupted them.”
UConn had five blocks, including two from Sanogo, and 19 assists, led by eight from Tristen Newton, both signs of the kind of all-around effort the Huskies have been putting in since early February, when they began to rebound from a six-game skid in eight games that halted his momentum.
That cold stretch is a big reason they were seeded only fourth for March. Now, it’s April and the number UConn is thinking of is “5,” as in, a fifth title to come if it can keep this going for one more game.
“Maybe it was a little delusional,” Huskies guard Andre Jackson Jr. said, “but we always knew we were the better team in our minds.”
AP March Madness Coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and support: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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