The first Final Four scores 2011 were a bit misleading. Yet both scores showed how Butler and Connecticut advanced through in close fashion. However, Butler’s 70-62 win over VCU looked less close than it really was, while UConn’s 56-55 victory over Kentucky looked closer than it was. But in both cases, the NCAA tournament finalists outslugged their opponents, survived early second-half runs and utterly shut the opposition down in the last minutes.
In the first semifinal, VCU looked to be picking up right where they left off with an early 15-2 run. After that, Butler slowed down the game, took away their three-point shot for the most point, and went into the locker room with a six-point lead. But the Rams made a run to get the lead back, and traded it with the Bulldogs for a little while.
Shelvin Mack then created some breathing room by himself, with a personal 8-0 run after a slow second half start. The Rams stayed within striking distance, but without their three-point bombs, or production from players other than Jamie Skeen, they gave out in the last minutes. Although both Cinderellas were close for much of the night, Butler got to coast to another championship game by the end.
Before the Final Four started, the highest scores were expected to come from Connecticut and Kentucky, and not Butler and VCU. However, nothing in the tournament has gone as expected. Therefore, the Huskies and Wildcats played an even bigger slugfest than the Bulldogs and Rams did.
While Kentucky was cold most of the way, Connecticut had a few runs, including a 10-2 spurt to give them a 10-point halftime lead. But just like VCU did, Kentucky jumped out of the gate after halftime, and took the lead back. From then on in, they were neck-and-neck with each other – especially since they could barely make a shot.
For all of the Wildcats’ struggles, and their 4-for-12 free throw shooting, they were still not far away from the Huskies. They closed the deficit to two points with a chance to win at the end, but DeAndre Liggins rushed a three-point shot. Shabazz Napier then sealed it for UConn with two free throws, with Brandon Knight’s buzzer-beating three making the final closer than it really was.
It wasn’t a technically pretty start, with the scores being pretty low much of the way. But it probably indicates that Monday night will be the same kind of battle, which would seem to favor Butler’s style. Yet Duke was able to beat them at their kind of game last year, and they didn’t have a Kemba Walker on their side.
Butler and UConn have less than 36 hours to prepare, before the last score of the season decides a national champion Monday night.
Yahoo Sports- “UConn holds on for 56-55 win over Kentucky”
ESPN- “Shelvin Mack leads Butler to second straight championship game”