College Basketball
2023 March Madness national championship highlights: UConn holds off SDSU for fifth title
College Basketball

2023 March Madness national championship highlights: UConn holds off SDSU for fifth title

Updated Apr. 4, 2023 12:50 a.m. ET

Overwhelming and unmatched, the UConn Huskies tore through the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament once again to capture their fifth national title — all since 1999 — with a terrific effort to hold off a pesky San Diego State side, 76-59, on Monday night in Houston.

On the grandest stage the sport has to offer, the Huskies were naturally led by their trio of stars that had guided them to a perfect record in non-conference play this season. Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo finished the night with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Tristen Newton one-upped him ever so slightly with a game-high 19 points and an equal effort on the glass. Jordan Hawkins, looking perfectly recovered from a stomach bug that impacted him on Saturday, chipped in with 16 points and a key 3-pointer in the final five minutes that all but sealed the deal on a dominant March Madness run that was the fourth best in terms of margin of victory since 1985.

Despite the final margin, San Diego State did its best to battle back and make it interesting late in the second half but never could get over the hump. Much of the blame can be focused squarely on the number of missed shots by the Aztecs, who shot 32% from the field in the game. Keshad Johnson led the way with 14 points, half of which came at the line. While the offense struggled, the lack of defense might be what frustrates head coach Brian Dutcher the most when he watches the contest back again as his team was beaten soundly on the boards and allowed the Huskies to shoot 50% from the field in the first half.

Catch up with the top highlights and in-game analysis here.

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No. 4 UConn 76, No. 5 San Diego State 59 

>>> SECOND-HALF UPDATES

1:55 - Now that is a championship response from UConn, breaking off a quick 9-0 run after SDSU had closed to within five. The Aztecs had another ill-timed 4:11 scoring drought before Darrion Trammell’s runner keeps the deficit at eight as crunch time has fully arrived at a stadium that has hosted quite a few memorable finishes. Note that UConn is shooting two on every foul call and Brian Dutcher has only one timeout left, so it feels like a critical possession or two here.

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2:51 - Tristen Newton gives the Huskies some breathing room. Forcing the issue at the rim, he got the bucket to go off the glass, giving UConn a 12-point lead.

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3:52 - Keep that triple from UConn’s Jordan Hawkins with five minutes left in mind as a key in stemming this SDSU run. It feels vital for the Huskies to build the lead back up to double-digits soon because they are not a team that has played many close games late — both in this tournament and during the regular season. The pressure seems to all be on their shoulders while the Aztecs are mighty comfortable in this kind of spot given the way they have fought back nearly every game since March rolled around. Can you feel the tension? It’s palpable with less than four minutes left in the college basketball season.

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6:08 - Lamont Butler gets the steal and makes a nifty layup on the other end for San Diego State.

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7:42 - We've got ourselves a game. The Aztecs are on a 9-0 run, capped off by Darrion Trammell's steal and score to pull them to within six points.

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6:58 - Cue the Undertaker rising from coffin GIF as SDSU has cut things to single digits for the first time since the first half with a 9-0 run. UConn has been playing tight the past few minutes and now the crowd is really getting into things to make it even more interesting. Keep in mind that Dan Hurley has used these late timeouts very effectively during the tournament during second half runs, and it’s led to better shots and the Huskies putting teams away more often than not. These Aztecs don’t quit however, so it should make for a fun final few minutes in Houston.

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8:33 - It feels like we’re entering put up or shut up time for San Diego State as the lead hovers at 11 after UConn had three attempts at point-blank range to extend its lead. The Aztecs are still shooting just 33% from the field but are forcing a few more bad shots on the other end to keep hanging around. UConn is 13-of-15 from the line, which is helping the Huskies withstand a few empty trips down the floor.

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9:51 - Joey Calcaterra hits his second 3-pointer to extend UConn's lead to 15 points.

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11:56 - You know, I was just about to say things have been fairly clean in terms of the officiating, but it sure seems like the whistles are coming fast and furious now. Neither team has scored from the field in over three minutes as we hit the under-12 timeout, but we are getting a number of trips to the line. Nathan Mensah’s third foul could prove key for SDSU given the team's lack of presence on the interior so far this game. The fact that UConn is going to the line the rest of the way is not going to hurt its chances on closing this one out.

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15:04 - San Diego State is staying in the game, as Adam Seiko's 3-pointer cuts UConn's lead to 10 points.

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15:19 - It sums up the state of affairs offensively for SDSU that it took until 15:42 — in the second half — to get the team's first made layup of the night. The Aztecs have shaved just a point off the halftime lead but really haven’t been able to string together stops yet amid the wave of UConn players capable of actually putting the ball through the basket. Both sides like to pump their chest out at having deep rosters capable of playing nine or 10 guys a night, but the Huskies’ advantage in this area in the title game is stark: Nine bench points for the Big East side, while SDSU’s bench is 0-10 from the floor.

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15:42 - Lamont Butler gets the physical bucket off the dribble for the Aztecs.

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17:28 - Alex Karaban sinks his first 3-pointer of the game, putting UConn up 41-28.

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19:24 - San Diego State's Matt Bradley drops Andre Jackson Jr. and then hit the mid-range jumper for the first points of the second half.

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>>> HALFTIME ANALYSIS: UConn 36, San Diego State 24

It is a minor miracle that San Diego State hits the locker room for the halftime break down only 12, with UConn coach Dan Hurley telling the broadcast they should be up 20 and not 36-24. He’s not wrong given that the Huskies’ late three minute scoring drought seemed to give the Aztecs a glimmer of hope that they could chip away at this thing despite such a dreadful effort from the field.

That first 20 minutes was all about the team that has been dominating the tournament and look to continue to do so tonight in Houston. UConn shot 50% from the field and forced more turnovers (nine) than their opponent had made field goals (eight). Tristen Newton surprisingly led the team in scoring with nine points, but this was an extremely balanced effort from the Huskies in sharing the ball, with eight players scoring and big man Adama Sanogo well on his way to another double-double with seven points and six boards.

The biggest halftime adjustment SDSU will have to make is how to deal with UConn’s size in the interior (where they were +10 in points in the paint). Every time an Aztec player found himself near the basket, it was like a panic ensued as they tried to immediately kick out to guys who weren’t open on the perimeter. Head coach Brian Dutcher has to be hammering home that his group has to put that shooting effort (29%) out of their head and just get back to fundamentals while making stops. They’ve been in this position before in this tournament and at least have experience in trying to fight down the stretch.

Either way, buckle up for the unexpected from both sides because that’s what this tournament has been about in the second half of games. As sad as it might be to some (looking at you, John Fanta), we’re 20 minutes away from cutting down the nets, watching One Shining Moment and crowning a national champion.

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>>> FIRST-HALF UPDATES

0:37 - San Diego State scored the last four points of the first half, its last bucket coming from Darrion Trammell. The Aztecs trailed 36-24 at halftime. 

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2:55 — It is shocking the lead isn’t greater than 16 for UConn given the way the Huskies are forcing missed shots from SDSU, which went 11:08 without scoring from the field. Everyone knew the Aztecs can struggle at times on offense, but that was historically bad as they made just 2-of-18 after starting the game off with three baskets on their first four shots. What is worse for Brian Dutcher’s crew is how their defense has not been able to bail them out at all with UConn shooting 63% and dominating in the paint with 16 points. We had a blowout in the CFP title game, a bit of one in the women’s basketball tourney, and we’re certainly trending that way again tonight in Houston.

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3:20 - Joey Calcaterra sunk a 3-pointer after receiving a between-the-legs pass from Andre Jackson Jr., putting the Huskies up 36-20. 

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5:06: - Tristen Newton built some separation for the Huskies near the end of the first half when he went on a 7-0 run by himself.

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6:34 - UConn turned a San Diego State turnover into points when Jordan Hawkins drained a 3-pointer on the other end of the floor.

08:50 - Is it danger time for the Aztecs? San Diego State has made just one of its last 12 shots and have gone nearly 7:42 without scoring from the floor. It’s almost enough to give you some Butler 2010 vibes with how hard they’re trying to come up with answers offensively. UConn, however, has its largest lead of the night and have navigated Donovan Clingan’s second foul by simply playing their best player this tourney — Adama Sanogo — some more.

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8:52 - Jordan Hawkins got a bucket off the dribble, adding to UConn's 14-2 run and forcing San Diego State to take a timeout. The Huskies later made it a 16-2 run before the third TV timeout.

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11:00 - SDSU wanted to test that interior defense from UConn with its low post game and that … has not worked out well. The Aztecs have gone 5:32 without scoring and haven't been close on any of their last eight missed attempts. That has allowed the Huskies to go on an 8-0 run to re-take the lead as the stellar defense we saw earlier in the tournament has begun to show up for both sides.

Also of note: Neither team has attempted a free throw up to this point. I'm not sure why coaches don’t make it a point of emphasis guards going downhill and driving to the basket to see if they get a foul call amid all these long scoring droughts.

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11:28 - UConn flipped the script before the second TV timeout, going on an 8-0 run to take the lead. Joey Calcaterra hooked up with Donovan Clingan on the alley-oop to give the Huskies a 14-10 lead.

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15:47 - Whew, what a frantic first few minutes that didn’t provide a hint of evidence that either side had any nerves for the biggest game of their careers. There was so much talk about UConn’s dominance coming into tonight — they trailed for just 47 seconds combined in their past three games — but San Diego State has put the pressure on by taking the early lead with plenty of balanced looks from Lamont Butler’s 3-pointer to Keshad Johnson’s jumper. While it's been a nice start on the offensive of the ball for San Diego State, Brian Dutcher would probably like a bit tighter defense as the two teams have combined for eight field goals by eight different players going into the under-16 timeout. The pace favors the Huskies, but the MWC champs have gotten off to a nice start.

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16:32 - San Diego State led 10-6 at the first TV timeout. It got buckets from four different players, the last one coming from Matt Bradley.

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19:15 - The Aztecs answered right back as Lamont Butler, the hero of the team's Final Four win over Florida Atlantic, drilled a 3-pointer to give San Diego State an early 3-2 lead.

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19:36 - UConn's Jordan Hawkins scored the first points of the game, hitting a pull-up jumper on the opening possession.

>>> PREGAME SCENE

The Hurley name

FOX Sports' Andy Katz spoke to UConn head coach Dan Hurley about what winning a national championship would mean to him and his family.

Keys to the game

FOX Sports college basketball reporter John Fanta offers up his three keys to the game ahead of tip-off.

All about the culture

FOX Sports' Andy Katz sits down with San Diego State coach head Brian Dutcher to speak about the culture in the program and how he put this team together.

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