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Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier (13) scores during the national championship game Monday night. USA Today Sports photo

UConn caps run to improbable crown

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UConn caps run to improbable crown
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Shabazz Napier led the way with 22 points and six rebounds as Connecticut held off Kentucky in North Texas to win their fourth national championship on Monday night 60-54.

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“We’re bunch of hungry Huskies,” said Napier, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Ryan Boatright added 14 points and three steals for Connecticut (32-8), which became the first No. 7 seed ever to win the NCAA Tournament. Niels Giffey scored 10 points while Napier knocked down four 3-pointers en route to his second national title in four years.

James Young collected 20 points and seven rebounds for Kentucky (29-11), which was bidding to become the first No. 8 seed to win the tournament since Villanova in 1985. Julius Randle was limited to 10 points and six rebounds while the Wildcats hurt themselves with a 13-of-24 showing from the free-throw line.

“I’m really proud of my team. We had a chance,” Kentucky coach Jon Calipari. “We had our chances to win. This team came a long way and we were right there at the end.”

Boatright broke down the defense and buried a pull-up jumper as the shot clock expired to give Connecticut a 56-50 edge with 4:12 to play. Alex Poythress followed with a dunk through contact but missed the ensuing free throw, and Kentucky could not get it within one possession down the stretch.

The Huskies rushed out to a 30-15 lead with just under six minutes left in the first half before the Wildcats recovered with a 16-5 burst to go into the locker room down 35-31. Kentucky pulled within a point three times in the first 12 minutes of the second, the last when Young knocked down a pair of free throws to cut it to 48-47.

“It’s a great achievement for our team, for our program on this stage,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. “Connecticut is back on top.”

Game notes

Connecticut went 10-for-10 at the line and overcame Kentucky’s height advantage with a 34-33 rebounding advantage. ... The Wildcats were bidding to become the first team ever to win a National Championship while starting five freshman. ... The Huskies improved to 8-1 all-time in Final Four games - the best winning percentage ever for a school with three or more Final Four games.

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