Men's Basketball: 'D' has been key in Huskies' championship run
ARLINGTON, Texas - The old adage in sports goes, "defense wins championships."
Throughout the tournament, UConn's suffocating defense has bailed the team out of its offensive slumps numerous times and allowed the Huskies to claw their way out of large deficits.
Saturday night was the latest exhibit of that phenomenon.
Down 16-4 early against the top team in the country, UConn clamped down its defense and outscored the Florida Gators 59-37 rest of the way, cementing their spot in the national championship game.
All of it started in the backcourt with the tenacious pressure applied by junior guard Ryan Boatright.
"My main thing is making the offensive player uncomfortable," Boatright said. "I know going into the game if I can make [the other player] uncomfortable and irritate him, to any point, or get him fatigued. If you get fatigued, you make mistakes."
Florida's Scottie Wilbekin was irritated by the pesky defense of Boatright all game Saturday.
Wilbekin had committed just two turnovers throughout the tournament but coughed the ball up three times in the Florida loss, a number that baffled him so much he called it "crazy."
But it's not crazy. UConn has done this to a lot of people. Just ask Villanova and Michigan State.
In those two games, the Huskies held both teams, which had offenses scoring over 76 points per game, to under 40 percent shooting and managed to win both games despite shooting under 45 percent themselves.
"We live and die on defense. You have to recognize that," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said.
That's the mentality Ollie has installed into his team all season, though it's only recently started to show.
"Of course we had some bumps in the road, like any team has during the season, and I believe that Louisville game was a bump in the road," said Ollie, referring to UConn's 81-48 loss in the regular season finale. "But I think that really promoted us... We came back and worked. We made adjustments from that game and I thought we got better from it."
Ollie understands the challenge that Kentucky - another team that averages over 76 point per game - presents for his Huskies in the final game. All he can ask for is 40 more minutes of the same defense that has gotten them this far.
"It's not always perfect all the time," Ollie said. "But we're going to play 40 full. That's what I believe in my guys... They want to play more. They are built for one more."
That's all there is left between UConn and a fourth national championship.
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