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UConn caps run to improbable crown

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

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.

“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.