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UConn repeats as national champion with win over Purdue

Purdue senior center Zach Edey scored 37 points, but head coach Dan Hurley's Huskies still won 75-60

20240408 - NCAA Men's Final Four Championship Game - Glendale, Ariz.

Connecticut Huskies head coach Dan Hurley celebrates after the NCAA Men’s Final Four Championship game against Purdue at State Farm Stadium on Monday, April 8, 2024, in Glendale.

No one could stop UConn’s quest for back-to-back national titles, not even Purdue senior center and back-to-back national player of the year Zach Edey.

The Huskies and Boilermakers collided in a clash of No. 1 seeds vying for a national championship. UConn continued its historic NCAA Tournament run in crushing fashion, beating Purdue 75-60. 

"This was our goal from day one," UConn graduate guard Cam Spencer said. "So to do it with your brothers and your family that you go to war with every day is just really special."

The championship was a contest of coaching philosophies. Purdue head coach Matt Painter trusted Edey as the key to winning his program’s first national title. The Boilermakers' coach seemed to have it made, but one man stood in the way: UConn head coach Dan Hurley.

Dealing with Edey was Hurley’s top priority heading into the game, but stopping the best player in college basketball is nearly impossible. The Purdue center shined in the first half and was the only sign of life on a lackluster Boilermakers’ offense.

"I just got to play better," Edey said. "This is one of those games where I can't go through stretches where I'm not effective. I had a few of those stretches today, and that was the game."

The teams stuck to their philosophical identities early on. Purdue ran nearly all of its sets through Edey, whereas UConn diversified its offense with the help of a deep backcourt.

Edey was a force in the paint and led Purdue with 16 points in the first half, including an alley-oop dunk over UConn sophomore center Donovan Clingan. There wasn’t much the Huskies could do to contest Edey’s shots as his long arms grazed the heavens to drain basket after basket.

Typically, the Boilermakers complement Edey’s presence in the paint with a barrage of threes. The same could not be said for the title game, as the Huskies swarmed anyone receiving a pass from Edey. Purdue went 1-7 from three-point territory throughout the game, and sophomore guard Braden Smith was the only Boilermaker to connect from range. 

"They just did a really good job guarding the three," Smith said. "We got in the paint plenty of times. We just didn't convert on a lot of them."

The script flipped on Purdue after a tight first half. Hurley seemed to have a trick up his sleeve as the Huskies stuck to their pack mentality to wear down the Boilermakers. As the clock ran out, four of UConn’s starters had tallied 10 points or more, including a 20-point effort by graduate guard Tristen Newton.

Edey was still Purdue’s go-to man while others struggled to get open looks. The Canadian center scored 21 points in the half, but the rest of his teammates combined for a mere nine points. Painter partially blames his team’s shortcomings on a negative rebounding margin.

"If we could have rebounded the basketball better, we could have got them to change and do that, but we weren't able to do that," Painter said. "Then they stayed in control of the game."

Even Edey’s 37-point performance wasn’t enough to overcome a UConn team that beat every tournament opponent it faced by double digits. It takes a complete team to go toe-to-toe with Hurley’s Huskies, not just one player.

"He doesn't shoot threes," Newton said of Edey. "If he makes 15 twos like he did today, that's 30. Where are the rest of the points going to come from?"

Purdue’s loss finalized its first championship game appearance since 1969. UConn’s repeat performance is the first since Florida went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. 

"It's up there in terms of the greatest two-year runs that a program maybe has ever had just because I can't say anything about Duke because I'm going to piss my brother off," Hurley said.

Edited by Walker Smith and Shane Brennan

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