ARLINGTON, Texas — Connecticut’s experienced backcourt made Kentucky’s guards look like, well, freshmen in the national championship game.
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright outplayed the Harrison twins from start to finish Monday night.
“Whatever you’ve got to do, you’ve got to do it,” said Napier, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. “We’ve got a saying: ‘The only way we’re going to leave this floor with a loss is in a box.’”
Napier, a senior who was a role player on UConn’s last title team in 2011, had 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in the Huskies’ 60-54 victory. Junior Ryan Boatright added 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Together, they were simply too much for the Wildcats (29-11) to handle.
“They were not going to let us take this game from them,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
Many thought it would be the other way around, with brothers Aaron and Andrew Harrison carrying the Wildcats to a second title in the last three years.
But the twins were mostly missing in the tournament finale at AT&T Stadium.
Aaron Harrison, who hit so many huge shots to get Kentucky to the title game, finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. He also had three turnovers and no assists.
Andrew Harrison was slightly better, scoring eight points to go along with five rebounds, five assists and four turnovers.
The play of the Harrisons contributed to Kentucky trailing most of the night, and Connecticut stepped up whenever the Wildcats made a charge.
“When you do have good guards that can control the game, it’s hard for you to come back because they can hold the ball and wait till run 35 seconds off the clock then make a tough shot,” Aaron Harrison said. “It’s pretty hard for you to come back like that.”
Calipari showed the UConn duo ultimate respect in the final minute by not fouling, saying “those guards never miss.”
“They weren’t going to miss a free throw,” Calipari said. “We had three possessions left. We were OK, but we were going to have to score on every possession. Those were the dice I rolled.”
The Huskies went 10 for 10 from the free-throw line.