Huskies dominant inside and out

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The Connecticut Huskies really do have it

all: the All-America center, the flashy guards, the coach who gets

everything right, and now a national title won with ease.

Led by 24 points from Emeka Okafor and 21 from Ben Gordon, the

Huskies outclassed Georgia Tech 82-73 on Monday night to win the

championship many predicted they'd get from the very start of the


They looked like champions from beginning to end, running when

they wanted, controlling the middle at other times, grabbing just

about every loose ball and making the Yellow Jackets look ordinary.

UConn became the first team since the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats to

win the title after being ranked first in the preseason. The

Huskies wound up on top of the college basketball world, thanks to

a tall, quick, deep and talented roster put together by coach Jim


"Going wire-to-wire is one of the hardest things you can do,

and it wasn't just the beginning of the year for us," Calhoun

said. "This wire-to-wire went September to April, and that's as

hard as it gets."

The 32-year coaching veteran missed making the Basketball Hall

of Fame by one vote this week. After the way he built and guided

this team, it's hard to imagine why. He coached UConn to its second

championship in six seasons, and joined Mike Krzyzewski and Bob

Knight as the only active coaches with multiple titles.

On Tuesday, tiny Storrs, Conn. -- the home of the Huskies -- could

become the undisputed capital of the basketball universe. The

women's team takes on Tennessee in the title game in New Orleans,

and with a win, Connecticut would become the first school to sweep

both championships.

"It was a great season," Okafor said. "We had our ups and

downs. This moment makes it all worthwhile."

Some say the Huskies' success starts with Okafor, the Final

Four's most outstanding player. He also had 15 rebounds for his

24th double-double of the season, which was marked by persistent

injuries. Prowling the lane on both ends, using his lanky 6-foot-10

frame to block two shots and alter dozens more, he dominated on

offense and negated Tech's Aussie center, Luke Schenscher.

Early in the second half, Okafor kept his hands straight up and

denied three straight Tech attempts to get the ball toward the

basket. Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt buried his head in his

hands and turned around toward the crowd. He couldn't believe there

wasn't a foul -- or maybe he just couldn't stomach what was


By that point, the lead had grown to 20, and although Tech's

furious rally cut the deficit to seven in the final seconds, the

outcome was never in doubt.

"They just went after the ball," Tech's Marvin Lewis said.

"They used their size, they boxed out well, they got to the ball.

We were fighting as hard as we could."

Of course, UConn has more -- much more -- than Okafor, and every

element was working.

Gordon, a junior who led the team in scoring, hit all three of

his 3-pointers during the first 20 minutes to help the Huskies take

a 15-point lead at halftime. His backcourt mate, Taliek Brown,

bounced back from a rough game in UConn's semifinal win over Duke

to finish with nine points, six rebounds and four assists.

Josh Boone, Rashad Anderson, Charlie Villanueva ... the list

goes on and on. No fewer than 10 UConn players made significant

contributions in this one.

Anderson celebrated at the end of the game by running around the

court with the game ball, laughing and holding his index finger in

the air as Okafor chased him. They eventually hugged -- a fond

farewell for Okafor, a junior who earned his degree in three years

and will almost surely leave for the NBA.

The two hooked up beautifully just before halftime, when Okafor

snatched a missed free throw, turned and, while still airborne,

threw to Anderson, who dribbled to the top of the key and swished a

shot at the buzzer. The Huskies pulled it off in five seconds, and

looked as if they were the only ones on the floor, instead of

playing against five Yellow Jackets.

Tech got nine points and 11 rebounds from Schenscher. Will Bynum

led the Jackets with 17 and B.J. Elder had 14, but they simply

couldn't shoot on this night. That they shot just 38 percent from

the field was understandable, given they were going against Okafor

and a lineup that included two more 6-10 guys.

But 12-for-21 from the free-throw line? That was a killer, and

it allowed the Huskies to push the lead to double digits much more

easily than they might have.

"You know, it happens like that some nights," Hewitt said.

Of course, losing always hurts, but it was hard to deem this

season a failure for Tech.

The team from the campus in downtown Atlanta was picked to

finish seventh this season in the nine-team Atlantic Coast

Conference, but instead made it to its first Final Four since 1990

and its first title game.

"We may not have one name that people can latch on to, so we're

somewhat nondescript," Hewitt said. "But this has been an

excellent basketball team the whole season."

The first inkling that this could be a big year for Tech came in

November, in the preseason NIT, when the Jackets dismantled UConn

77-61 to knock the Huskies out of the top spot in the poll.

Okafor's back was hurting then. The UConn team that showed up

for the final barely resembled the one from last fall.

"The difference between this game and the preseason NIT was

that this was the national championship game," Gordon said,

"plain and simple."