Thanks to a historically poor shooting night by the Butler Bulldogs, the Connecticut Huskies are your 2011 NCAA Champions in men’s basketball. UConn defeated Butler 53-41 at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Monday in a game that was not at all befitting of how great this year’s March Madness has been.
Both teams struggled mightily on offense. At halftime, Butler held a one-point lead, 19-18, thanks to a long-range bomb from Shelvin Mack at the buzzer. During the halftime show, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Greg Anthony all expressed disbelief at how poorly both teams were shooting the ball. Both with still 20 minutes left to play, all were willing to chalk the poor first half up to solid defense and a bit of nerves.
Surely both teams would get it together in half number two, right? Well, not really. Especially not Butler.
At the 8:30 mark of the second half, UConn had jumped out to a 39-28 lead thanks to Butler’s 2-of-21 shooting in the second half. Remarkably, Butler hit the first field goal attempt of the second half, meaning they misfired on 19 of their next 20 attempts over the course of a ten-plus minute span. At that point, the Huskies had more blocked shots (9) than the Bulldogs did field goals (8). Yet, Butler still was in striking distance, down just 11.
Butler could never string together a run, though, something they’ve done all tournament. Brad Stevens’ bunch finished an atrocious 18 percent from the floor (12-of-64), setting a new mark for futility in the title game. Washington State had previously held the dubious distinction for the past 59 years after shooting 21.5 percent back in 1941. Butler isn’t going to beat a team like UConn with their front line, but they mustered nothing in the paint. In fact, the Bulldogs didn’t score their first points in the paint until just over 6 minutes remaining in the game. Also worth noting is that nine of their 12 field goals came from downtown.
Give credit to UConn though for the outstanding job they did defensively against Butler, and for turning in a solid second half performance. The Huskies have clearly been the best team in basketball this past month. Their remarkable run, which began during the Big East Tournament, saw them rattle off eleven straight wins en route to the Big East Conference Tournament title and ultimately the National Championship.
With the win, Jim Calhoun cuts down the nets for the third time as the head coach at UConn. His first championship came in 1999, the second in 2004, and with tonight’s win, he becomes the only coach to have won three national titles since ’99. Very impressive.