ARLINGTON, Texas — With 9:07 remaining in the first half of Saturday’s national semifinal matchup with No. 1 Florida, No. 7 UConn had managed to score just four points. Leading scorer Shabazz Napier had yet to score, and outside of points at the rim scored by DeAndre Daniels and Amida Brimah the Huskies enjoyed no success on the offensive end of the floor. In need of a boost head coach Kevin Ollie went to a three point guard lineup, inserting freshman Terrence Samuel.
The move turned the tide of the contest, one that UConn would ultimately go on to win by the final score of 63-53. As a result the program will make its fourth national title game appearance Monday night, with this being the first under second-year head coach Kevin Ollie.
Daniels, who has been outstanding all tournament long, paced the Huskies with 20 points to go along with ten rebounds. And despite getting off to that slow start UConn finished the game shooting 56% from the field, taking control of the game and getting many of the quality looks they desired throughout the night.
Four starters finished the game in double figures, and as a team UConn outscored Florida 36-24 in the paint. While the first meeting between these two teams, a 65-64 UConn win on December 2, can’t be relied for too much it should be noted that the Gators held a 32-14 advantage in paint points on that night.
Florida struggled mightily offensively, shooting 39% from the field and 1-for-10 from beyond the arc. Michael Frazier II was responsible for the lone made three but he was unable to shake free of the UConn defense, attempting just three shots on the night. Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin combined to score just eight points, and that had a major impact on the outcome.
Without the inside-out balance that made the Gators the favorite to cut down the nets this weekend, Billy Donovan’s team was unable to muster up enough offensive production to derail the red-hot Huskies.
“On offense, we just couldn’t really get anything going,” Wilbekin said. “They were being really aggressive and we couldn’t really get into our offense. We weren’t moving the ball as well, and a couple of us were having bad shooting nights.”
As stated earlier the Huskies have made three prior appearances in the title game, winning all three (1999, 2004 and 2011). And given the way Daniels and his teammates have played in reaching this point, UConn is is more than capable of making it 4-for-4.