UConn becomes the first team in 17 YEARS to win back-to-back national championships as the unstoppable Huskies steamroll through Zach Edey and Purdue in 75-60 victory to cement a dynasty in Connecticut

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • UConn became the first team since Florida Gators in 2007 to go back-to-back  
  • Zach Edey’s 37 points weren’t enough to help the Boilermakers keep pace
  • DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news

Just before practices begin at the University of Connecticut, coach Dan Hurley likes to throw up multiple half-court shots to try and sink at least one of them. Once he hits one, he immediately lines up for another, hyping himself up by saying ‘Who’s the king of two-in-a-row?’ to which assistants reply ‘You are’ before he inevitably misses.

If Hurley hitting two half-court shots in a row is improbable, then winning two national championships in a row must be unfathomable – the basketball equivalent of Absolute Zero. No one had done this since Florida in 2007 and in this day and age of NIL, keeping kids around to pull off such a feat never happens.

But improbable, unfathomable, and Absolute Zero as it may be, those odds are now all laughed at by Dan Hurley, the King of Two-in-a-Row. Because that’s what he is now, the first man since his mentor Billy Donovan to win consecutive national titles.

He did that with ruthless scheming, efficiency, tough practices, and buy-in from a group of players he kept together through fear of poaching by other coaches and through one transfer portal acquisition who embodies his energy to a T. They swept through the Big East Conference, losing only two games en route to both a regular season title and a conference tournament title.

And now he has the Big One, again. Hurley’s Huskies got it done in Phoenix, knocking off Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers in a national title game for the ages that ended with UConn winning its sixth crown in 25 years to tie North Carolina for the third most all-time.

UConn was crowned back-to-back NCAA champions after beating Purdue Monday night 

The Huskies toppled the Boilermakers 75-60 at State Farm Stadium in the title game

The Huskies toppled the Boilermakers 75-60 at State Farm Stadium in the title game 

Zach Edey's 37 points weren't enough to help the Boilermakers keep pace with the champions

Zach Edey’s 37 points weren’t enough to help the Boilermakers keep pace with the champions

To do what Dan Hurley and the UConn Huskies have just done requires context. The feat of repeating a national title has always been a difficult one – only six teams have ever done it – but those teams who have accomplished it have almost never had to replace a majority of their starting lineup.

Consider that the last three teams to repeat (the 2006-07 Florida Gators, the 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils, and the 1972-73 UCLA Bruins) returned at least four players to their starting lineup the years they won it all.

This year, UConn only brought back Alex Karaban and Tristen Newton, losing three starters to the NBA. And in spite of all that, they got better. They got much better.

The key matchup of the night was between the two seven-footers – Edey at 7-foot-4 for Purdue and Clingan at 7-foot-2 for Connecticut. It’s the first time two players over 7 feet had faced each other in a national title game since Hakeem Olajuwon battled Patrick Ewing in 1984.

From the start it was clear that neither player had really played someone like them before – with Clingan’s defense altering Edey’s first shot. The Boilermaker man got the better of his counterpart the next chance he had. Honors were even at the first under-16 timeout – two makes, two misses.

Edey began to get into more of a rhythm through the next interval – reaching eleven points with less than eleven-and-a-half to go. Hurley was seen berating the officiating crew of Terry Oglesby, Roger Ayers, and Jeffery Anderson for what he thought was a blatant over-the-back foul by Edey. Purdue fans began screaming for a technical, but Hurley was hauled away by assistants.

Head coach Dan Hurley hoists up the trophy with his team behind him after their victory

Head coach Dan Hurley hoists up the trophy with his team behind him after their victory 

Hurley celebrates after cutting down the net after defeating the Purdue Boilermakers

Hurley celebrates after cutting down the net after defeating the Purdue Boilermakers 

7-foot-4 Edey began to get into more of a rhythm through the next interval

7-foot-4 Edey began to get into more of a rhythm through the next interval

After the first under-eight minute media timeout, Clingan began exerting his presence in the paint more – disrupting two Edey attempts while putting in four points of his own to help give Connecticut a 30-25 lead with 3:49 left in the first half.

The first half ended with a flurry of points from Purdue’s Braden Smith, who had been struggling in the tournament up until that point. But a perfectly executed timeout from Hurley resulted in a Purdue scoring drought to end the half with the Huskies up 36-30.

Out of the intermission, Edey missed his first three shots and Purdue was getting outscored 7-4 by the first media stoppage. But equally key at that point was Clingan picking up his third foul, necessitating a benching for a short time with the Huskies up 43-34.

Samson Johnson deputized and had his first offensive contribution of the game with a lob dunk over Edey to give UConn its first double-digit lead of the night. He followed it up with another the very next possession. Even down 11, Purdue’s contingent remained loud and in the game as they made their majority known throughout State Farm Stadium.

Braden Garden guards Tristen Newton as the Husky attempts to dribble past him

Braden Garden guards Tristen Newton as the Husky attempts to dribble past him 

Up 51-38 just before the under-12 media timeout, Hurley turned to the crowd to pump them up – only to watch as the Huskies foul troubles continued – putting them in the bonus with 11:31 remaining in the game. Out of that timeout, Edey missed the front end of the 1-and-1.

Matt Painter called timeout after UConn put up a five point swing off an Alex Karaban triple and a Hassan Diarra layup to put Connecticut up 56-40. The blue and white half of the building screamed out a chant as the Huskies aimed for greatness with 9:27 left. Out of that timeout, Edey hit a layup to constitute Purdue’s first field goal in over four-and-a-half minutes. Clingan’s fourth foul led to the under-8:00 media timeout, with the Bristol, Connecticut native screaming and tearing his undershirt off in a rage.

He called timeout again after Johnson fouled out and the Huskies were forced to switch 6-foot-8 Karaban onto Edey at a nine-inch height disadvantage. Even still, Purdue struggled to hit shots. The under-four media timeout came and the attendance of over 74,000 was announced – the third-best figure in championship history.

The remainder of the game played out like a formality. Connecticut kept inbounding the ball, Huskies fans continued to cheer, and the final buzzer sounded. Edey finished the night with 37 points and ten rebounds, coming too little and too late as the rest of the team shot an abysmal 9-29.

Edey embraces teammate Lance Jones to console him following their defeat in Phoenix

Edey embraces teammate Lance Jones to console him following their defeat in Phoenix

Hurley swatted away rumors of him heading to other places now that he’s atop the throne in Storrs: ‘You should ask my wife that, she’ll give you a better answer,’ the coach laughed.

Considering the current landscape of college basketball, a run like this could be impossible to replicate – especially considering players often bolt for the next dollar.

But Hurley’s not quick to crown his team as different because of it. ‘Obviously, it’s a special run,’ the coach said. ‘We’re going to try to replicate it again. We’re going to maintain a championship culture. 

‘We brought in and we’re bringing in some very talented high school freshmen. Our returning players through player development will take a big jump, and it will strategically end through the portal. 

‘I don’t think that we’re going anywhere,’ he said with a wry smile, now officially crowned the King of Two-In-A-Row.

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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