HOUSTON – Connecticut’s Alex Oriakhi and the rest of his frontcourt mates led the Huskies to their third national title by succeeding where so many teams have failed: They bullied Butler.
Oriakhi shook off first-half foul trouble to finish with 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks as UConn dominated the overmatched Bulldogs in an emphatic, if not exactly crowd-pleasing, 53-41 win.
UConn outscored the Bulldogs 26-2 in the lane while holding Butler to the worst shooting performance in title game history. The Bulldogs made 12-of-64 shots, many of the misses from in close the Huskies either swatted or altered with their considerable reach.
Butler scraped its way to a second straight national title game behind a gritty defense and a methodical offense that never seemed to get rattled or intimidated on the big stage.
Not this time.
Oriakhi, Charles Okwandu, Roscoe Smith and Tyler Olander swarmed Butler in the lane.
Butler’s only basket in the lane came on a lay-up by Andrew Smith with 6:13 to play, but by then the Bulldogs trailed 41-30.
Butler appeared to have a chance when Oriakhi trudged off the floor with 10:26 to play in the first half after collecting his second foul.
The Bulldogs took a 22-19 lead into the break and the lead stretched to six on a 3-pointer by Chase Stigall moments into the second half.
It would be Butler’s last push. Oriakhi and company stepped up the defensive pressure while Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb provided the offense.
The Bulldogs went through two long stretches without a basket in the second half. Shots that had fallen so often over the last two years rolled off the rim, if they got to the rim at all.