It's safe to say that the 53-41 snorefest of a victory by UConn Monday night won't go down as one of the greatest National Championship games of all time. It was an orchestra of disaster for both teams, as they couldn't buy a shot, but in the end that didn't matter for Connecticut, who gave just enough to get the job done.
For Butler, on the other hand, this one is going to sting.
On the biggest stage in college basketball, with all eyes on them, Butler put up one of the worst offensive performances of all time. They made an anemic, two shots inside the three-point arc (That's right, I said two!) and in one stretch in the second half went 6 minutes and 19 seconds without scoring.
"Without question, 41 points and 12-of-64 is not good enough to win any game," Butler coach Brad Stevens said, "let alone the national championship game."
Butler couldn't get anything done inside as UConn's defense was smothering. They were outscored in the paint 26-2 and had no answer for the pressure Connecticut was putting on them. The only reason they were ever in this game was because of a defense that was almost as stifling as UConn's.
"The defense was really good, we contested shots and it felt like we were just right there, but we kept missing close shots at the rim," Butler's Matt Howard said. "But a lot of that goes back to their defense. If we hold them to what we did [34.5 percent overall, 1-of-11 on 3s], we thought we'd have a chance to win. It just wasn't enough."
For UConn, it was obvious that fatigue was finally setting in after a run that saw them go thirteen straight wins to get them to the National Championship. Head Coach Jim Calhoun, who now has three National Championships under his belt, foresaw this possibility and switched tactics in practice down the stretch, emphasizing defense as a way to mask the potential off offensive night that tiredness could bring.
"Down the stretch [of the season], we would literally take 50 percent of practice on nothing but defense," Calhoun said. "… That's much more than almost any other team I've done."
"So you need to understand that defense is going to take you and hold you in the game until your offense gets going, and that's what I think happened tonight."
Uconn was led my Kemba Walker, who put up 16 points and was named Tournament Most Oustanding Player. Walker faded somewhat in the final two games, again more than likely due to fatigue, but he had enough to will his team to the win and the Championship.
"You see the tears on my face," Walker said. "I have so much joy in me, it's unreal. It's surreal. I'm so happy right now."
For a NCAA tournament as wild as this one was, and it perhaps was one of the wildest of all time, the way it ended could be construed as being a letdown. But for purist of the game, this knockdown dragout defensive fight was as good as gold and in it's own way, was as memorable a game as any Championship before it.
"Butler really plays defense," Calhoun said. "I mean, they really play defense. And we really play defense, and I think eventually our quickness and length got to them, but from a purist standpoint, if you really like defense, take a clip of this game."
Photo Courtesy of: AP Images