Putrid shooting mars championship game
Dennis Rodman, who never played in an NCAA tournament game, was honored at halftime of the national championship game. Fitting. This was a vintage Bad Boys evening.
There was a moment in the second half when Butler’s Shelvin Mack shoved Connecticut’s Jeremy Lamb out of bounds and to the hardwood. The Huskies’ normally stoic freshman looked up in surprise as if he’d been hit by a Mack truck — he had, actually — and proclaimed to no one in particular, “What the (expletive)?”
America’s thoughts, exactly, Jeremy.
Poor shooting and dedicated defensive effort, along with three bashful referees, contributed to one of the most unsightly games ever televised.
Butler shot 18.8 percent for Monday night, a championship-game low. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Shelvin Mack, shot just 4 of 15. The Bulldogs were 3-for-31 (9.7 percent) from inside the arc. When Andrew Smith made a put-back at the 6:11 mark of the second half, Butler’s first and only points in the paint all game, it drew the loudest cheer from 70,376 disgruntled fans.
“You just hope the shots go in,” Butler guard Zach Hahn said. “That’s how it’s been all tournament. Whenever we needed a big shot, somebody came up with it. I guess we just ran out of steam. Nobody could make ‘em.”
Connecticut was actually worse in the first half. At the break UConn had yet to make a 3-pointer and had just one assist. The Huskies’ 19 points were the fewest by a team in the championship game since California totaled 19 in 1960. You wondered if Maya Moore, who scored 36 points the previous night for that other Huskies squad, had one more night of eligibility remaining.
You’d have to go back before the era of Milan High (1953, ’54) to find an NCAA championship game in which the losing team scored fewer points than Butler’s 41. Connecticut’s football team actually surrendered more points to Oklahoma (48) in the Fiesta Bowl three months ago than its basketball team did last night.
Credit two teams with outstanding defensive effort. The Huskies blocked 10 shots and protected the basket as if there were a crease around it. Butler, outsized, continually nagged Connecticut’s perimeter players, pushing the limits of, well, pushing.
“I felt like we kept trying to go back inside,” Howard said. “We had quite a few pretty good looks. They just weren’t going in. This one is pretty frustrating, just personally. I wish, from my standpoint, that I was able to give a little bit more to my team.”
“We kept telling each other, ‘Shots are going to go in, keep shooting, it’s going to be fine,’” Howard said. “We kept thinking the shots were going to go in.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report