Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points and earned UConn its first trip to the Final Four in nine years with an 82-54 blowout against Gonzaga on Saturday night.
LAS VEGAS — LAS VEGAS (AP) — The criticism of UConn under coach Dan Hurley was the program’s inability to win in March.
Back-to-back exits from the first round of the NCAA tournament meant the Huskies were good, not great — certainly not anywhere in a league with the UConn women’s program.
In what may be the craziest march of them all, the Huskies once again proved they are elite and produced another dominating performance a few hours after a rare misstep by the UConn women.
Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points and UConn overwhelmed its fourth straight NCAA tournament opponent to secure its first trip to the Final Four in nine years with an 82-54 blowout against Gonzaga on Saturday night.
“I think it becomes a little mental hurdle, especially like in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament where you might feel like the weight of history and tradition and the first round games, maybe even the second round games ‘ Hurley said. “The rise to this point has been real and more challenging than I thought.”
The Huskies (29-8) have felt right at home in their first extended March Madness run since winning the 2014 national championship, playing their best basketball of an up-and-down season.
Controlling the normally efficient Bulldogs at both ends in the West Region Finals, UConn built up a 23-point lead early in the second half to waltz straight into the final section of the bracket.
Those first-round exits are now well in the rear-view mirror. Such is this midseason funk.
These elite huskies have done what the UConn women for once couldn’t and are headed to Houston where they will play Texas or Miami.
UConn also has a pretty good track record when it comes, with the Huskies going 8-1 in all-time Final Four games.
“We have a lot to prove,” said Andre Jackson Jr., who had eight points, ten assists and nine rebounds. “We still have a chip on our shoulders.”
The Bulldogs (31-6) didn’t have the same second-half magic as they did in a last-second win over UCLA in the Elite Eight.
Gonzaga allowed UConn to hit a late run at halftime to take a seven lead and fell completely apart after All-American Drew Timme went on the bench with his fourth foul early in the second half.
The Zags shot 33% from the field — 7 of 29 in the second half — and went 2 for 20 of 3 to stumble on their bid for a third Final Four since 2017.
“UConn was just great tonight and we didn’t have any answers, especially when things weren’t really going our way,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “And we can’t handle a game like that when our offensive is as bad as tonight.”
Alex Karaban scored 12 points and Adama Sanogo had 10 points and 10 rebounds for UConn.
Timme had 12 points and 10 rebounds and received a hearty ovation after being pulled out of his last collegiate game with 1:50 left.
“I’m just so grateful that the program and the place accepted me for who I am,” said Timme, who gave Few a long hug as he left. “They didn’t ask me to be anyone other than myself.”
The Zags started off like they had a Vegas hangover, firing two air-balled 3-pointers and a wild bishop from Timme. After Gonzaga shook out the cobwebs, the Bulldogs held the Huskies in check with hard hedges on screens and Timme, who sagged off Jackson to protect the lane, with the defense.
UConn countered by putting the ball in the strong hands of Sanogo, the moderator. The UConn big man ripped apart Gonzaga’s doubles teams for five first-half assists, including two for layups.
“We found that out,” Hurley said. “It does not work anymore.”
Karaban hit a 3-pointer on the buzzer to put the Huskies 39-32 at halftime and things got worse for Gonzaga early in the second half.
UConn extended the lead to 12 and Timme recorded his third and fourth fouls in the first 2 1/2 minutes – one on a charge, another on a box out under the rim.
“We brought the team together and tried to keep positive thoughts and further reduce that lead,” said Anton Watson, Gonzaga forward. “But it’s hard when Drew is dating.”
The Huskies really got rolling when Timme took a seat and used her defense to get out in transition and set up 3-pointers. A 14-3 run put UConn at 60-37 and Few took a calculated risk to put Timme back in the game.
It made little difference.
UConn kept up the pressure and kept making shots looking very much like the favorite to win it all.
https://www.king5.com/article/sports/college/uconn-routs-gonzaga-82-54-for-first-final-four-in-9-years/281-7afef7c8-047d-44e8-b966-adbcff71fba4 UConn routs Gonzaga 82-54 for first Final Four in 9 years