UConn Led Wire-To-Wire And Cruised To A Final Four Win Over Miami

After San Diego State advanced to the national final with a buzzer-beating win over Florida Atlantic, the UConn Huskies and Miami Hurricanes faced off in the Final Four nightcap in Houston. UConn rolled through its previous opponents, including a demolition of Arkansas and a comfortable win over Gonzaga in the West Regional, and the Huskies were facing a similarly hot Miami team. Only one team continued its strong tournament showing, though, and the Huskies were able to establish and maintain a solid lead from wire to wire in a 72-59 victory.

The start of the game was near-perfect for UConn, with the Huskies leading 9-0 in a hurry. UConn wing Jordan Hawkins, who missed Friday’s practice with illness, began the evening with a three-pointer and the Huskies made a trio of triples while Miami missed its first five shots.

Things got even worse from there for Miami, as the Hurricanes began the game by missing 11 of their first 12 shots. For a team heavily reliant on perimeter creation and shot-making, that was a difficult blow to withstand, and Miami trailed by double figures less than seven minutes into the game.

Miami did settle in from there with help from the offensive glass. The Hurricanes snagged six offensive rebounds in the first 11 minutes, managing to stay in contact, and Miami also forced six early turnovers on defense. That helped Miami to a 12-3 run that erased the early double-digit deficit and tied the game.

UConn asserted itself from there, however, as the Huskies scored the next eight points. Big man Adama Sanogo was dominant in the early going, scoring 12 points, grabbing five rebounds, and rejecting a shot with authority within his first 12 minutes of on-court action.

The Huskies closed the first half with authority, finishing off an 18-5 run with a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Alex Karaban.

Miami entered the Final Four red-hot from a shooting standpoint, making 52.5 percent of shots and 39.3 percent of three-point attempts in wins over Indiana, Houston, and Texas. In the first half, the Hurricanes shot only 25 percent from the field, putting up 0.73 points per possession in the process. Given that offensive ineptitude, Miami might have been fortunate to trail by only 13 points, but it was a considerable hole against a potent UConn squad.

Then, the Huskies opened things up even more to begin the second half with a 9-2 run. That included five second-chance points from UConn and, in a hurry, the favorites led by 20 points.

Miami was in desperate need of a spark and it finally arrived in the form of a 7-0 run. The Hurricanes generated back-to-back steals, leading to run-outs, and the Hurricanes were able to climb back within a 49-37 margin with more than 14 minutes on the clock.

The Hurricanes continued to build what became a 15-3 run. A three-pointer by Isaiah Wong cut UConn’s lead to single-digits for the first time in the half, and Miami’s offense had officially come alive.

Almost on cue, UConn punched back with seven straight points. The Huskies continued to dominate the rim and, with another three-pointer from Hawkins also in the mix, UConn pushed the advantage back to 60-45 with fewer than nine minutes remaining.

Miami had chances to cut into the margin, including a pair of possessions in which the Hurricanes had the ball down only 10 points. Those trips finished without denting the scoreboard, however, and the door started to close on a comeback bid. A dunk by Andre Jackson felt like a dagger with 3:36 to play, as it gave the Huskies a 14-point edge and prompted an immediate timeout from Miami.

A final spurt never came for the Hurricanes, and UConn wrapped up its fifth consecutive double-digit win in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. The Huskies were led by Sanogo, who finished with 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and two blocks. Hawkins was also tremendous, especially when accounting for his illness, and UConn’s offensive rebounding and force were key to keeping the Hurricanes at bay.

On the Miami side, the shotmaking simply wasn’t there in a spot where it had to be for Jim Larranaga’s team. The Hurricanes got some shots to fall in the second half but, on the whole, Miami shot just 32.3 percent from field. Even with solid three-point shooting and work on the offensive glass, Miami’s lack of success near the rim, coupled with defensive struggles, was too much to overcome.

UConn’s victory sets up a Monday night showdown with San Diego State, as the Huskies will attempt to finish off a tournament run that would be surprising for a typical No. 4 seed but is not for this particular No. 4 seed. The Huskies will enter as betting favorites to cut down the nets and, given the team’s recent play, San Diego State will need to have its A-game to pull off the upset.