UConn earned a national championship game berth for the first time since 2014 on Saturday as the No. 4 seed Huskies dominated No. 5 seed Miami in the second of two national semifinals games. The 72-59 wire-to-wire win gave UConn, which is 4-0 all-time in championship games, its fifth title game appearance in program history where it will face No. 5 seed San Diego State on Monday night.
UConn raced out to a 14-4 lead within the first seven minutes of the game and set the tone for how the rest of the game would play out. Miami made runs and cut the lead down to single digits, but UConn delivered blow after blow before beating them down.
"I love the way they guarded them," coach Dan Hurley said. "We really disrupted them. I thought we body-blowed them until we could knock them out."
It was a balanced attack by UConn on both ends of the floor but big man Adama Sanogo was once again the shining star of the Huskies' efforts. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the win, including 13 first-half points that helped him and his team to a comfortable lead.
Here are three takeaways from the Huskies' dominant win over the Hurricanes.
1. UConn's defense comes up big
Against a Miami offense operating all postseason like an unstoppable freight train, UConn's defense stepped up in a big way in the season's biggest moment to hold the Hurricanes to a season-low 59 points. The team shot 32.3% from the field and struggled to capture momentum on offense in its guard-heavy system as Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller and Nijel Pack all failed to find their respective grooves.
"It was totally uncharacteristic of us offensively," said Miami coach Jim Larranaga. "We kept trying too hard, too early, [took] bad shots off the dribble, no ball movement, no sharing. At halftime, one of the players put on the grease board 'Share the ball.' Then we went and did the same thing."
Miami's 32.3% field-goal percentage was its second-worst outing of the season and worst of the postseason after shooting 30.4% from the field in Round 1 vs. Drake in a close-shave win.
2. Sanogo keeps shining
The big man from Bamako only shows up in big games. Sanogo dominated Miami's height-challenged frontline inside and out with his third double-double of the NCAA Tournament. His size and physicality always brings an advantage for this UConn team, but it was his two first-half 3-pointers that made the game go from wow UConn looks good to OK, this isn't a fair fight territory. When the most physically imposing big man on the court can block shots but also make shots from beyond the arc, it's a cheat code.
"This is something I've worked on all summer, is my shooting," Sanogo said after the game.
3. Tip of the cap to Miami
One year ago, No. 10 seed Miami advanced to its first-ever Elite Eight before falling to eventual national champion Kansas. The nucleus of that team -- Jordan Miller, Isaiah Wong, Wooga Poplar -- promised to remember the pain of that loss and carry with them for motivation. The result: a share of the ACC regular-season title, a program-best 29 wins and a magical run that ended in a first-ever Final Four appearance.
"I've really just been on a magic carpet ride with these young men," said Larranaga postgame of his team. "We didn't play that well today. But I told the guys afterwards was that I used to watch a show called Wide World of Sports. The theme was about the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. I told them we experienced both. Today was the agony of defeat. This will last a long time. They'll have great memories, though, of the entire season."