NCAA BB

UConn weathers early Alabama storm in Final Four, to face Purdue for title

Apr 6, 2024, 8:00 PM | Updated: 8:39 pm

Donovan Clingan...

Donovan Clingan #32 of the Connecticut Huskies dunks the ball in the first half against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game at State Farm Stadium on April 06, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Alabama pushed ahead early with its 3-point shooting, but top-seeded UConn handled the early sharpshooting for an 86-72 victory in Saturday’s Final Four matchup at State Farm Stadium.

The Huskies, led by head coach Dan Hurley, will play for their second straight national championship against Purdue on Monday.

The Crimson Tide led 23-18 after a Rylan Griffen 3-pointer with 11 minutes left in the half, but the Huskies made up ground at the free-throw line and took a 44-40 lead into the break. Seven-foot-two center Donovan Clingan threw down a strong transition dunk over Alabama’s Latrell Wrightsell Jr. during the stretch.

UConn never trailed in the second half, and a 10-2 run late put the game out of reach.

Clingan had an electric stretch with a pair of dunks sandwiching a monster block off the backboard on a Grant Nelson layup attempt. Nelson posterized the big man earlier in the half.

Clingan finished with 18 points and four blocks, while Stephon Castle led the Huskies with a career-high-tying 21 points.

UConn had only trailed for 28 seconds total this tournament before Saturday with wins over Stetson, Northwestern, San Diego State and Illinois leading to their trip to the Valley. The Huskies led by 30 in each of the first four games.

Alabama, the country’s second best team by KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, hit eight-of-11 triples to start the game, gave UConn a battle it has not yet seen this tournament. The Crimson Tide were down only two possessions with 7:34 remaining.

Alabama went 3-for-12 from deep in the second half, as the offense cooled. Mark Sears led the team with 24 points, while Nelson added 19.

UConn has won 11 straight tournament games by 13 or more points.

The title game will have a matchup of two of the nation’s most dominant bigs with Clingan matching up with Purdue’s 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey.

UConn has a chance to be the first repeat national champion since Florida in 2006-07.

State Farm Stadium’s attendance for the Final Four was 74,720.

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