Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

NCAA finalists missed '13 tournament

ARLINGTON, Texas — Monday's title game will be between No. 8 seed Kentucky and No. 7 Connecticut, neither of which was in the NCAA Tournament last year.

The last time two teams that missed the tournament the previous year made the final was 1966, Texas Western versus Kentucky.

UConn coach Kevin Ollie said he had faith the Huskies would make the final. He also thanked Florida coach Billy Donovan after UConn beat the Gators in the semifinals Saturday.

"I just want to really thank Billy Donovan," Ollie said. "He's a great, terrific, coach. Florida's a great team, great coach, Hall of Fame coach, and it's an honor to play against him and compete."

Record Crowd: A crowd of 79,444 was at the semifinals at AT&T Stadium, a record for an NCAA basketball game.

Painful End: The cramping that affected Florida G Scottie Wilbekin in last week's Elite Eight returned Saturday. Wilbekin played 34 minutes against UConn, but he could be seen having his legs iced by head athletic trainer Duke Werner.

"He didn't have any cramping issues in practice or anything else like that," Donovan said. "He's had a problem with that at different points in time in the season, and very, very rarely does he ask me to come out. But he asked to come out within the first minute of the second half, so I just took him out and tried to give Kasey (Hill) a chance."

Hill had four turnovers, and said he believed Wilbekin's cramping issues affected his game. He averaged 16 points in the NCAA Tournament but finished with just four.

"He's our best player on the team, and he's our leader, so that hurt us a little," Hill said.

"We really wanted to stay on Wilbekin, keep him out of the lane, keep him on one side," Ollie said. "We call it ace of spades. That was the ace of spades in this game, we wanted to take him out."

Frazier's Woes: Florida G Michael Frazier of Tampa never had another point after hitting a 3-pointer on the opening possession. Frazier, who set the school record for 3s this season, said UConn's defense made it difficult for him. "They pretty much just denied me the ball," he said. "But it opened up things for my teammates so Casey (Prather) was able to get down the lane and we were able to get layups, but they didn't let me get the ball much."

OF NOTE: This is the second time in eight years that the final won't have a No. 1 seed. In 2011, No. 3 UConn beat No. 8 Butler. … UConn is the third No. 7 or lower seed to reach the title game since the field expanded in 1985, joining Butler (2011) and No. 8 Villanova (1985).

Howard's support: Dwight Howard showed some love for the alma mater of Rockets teammate Chandler Parsons. Howard, who played his first eight NBA seasons with the Magic, was seen doing the Gator chomp in the Florida student section. Parsons was with him. Howard went straight to the NBA out of high school. Parsons was a freshman when UF won the 2007 national title.

Honors: The new members of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame were honored at halftime. Shaquille O'Neal was the only living inductee not present. Former LSU coach Dale Brown — O'Neal's college coach — attended, along with former Maryland coach Gary Williams and former Duke star Grant Hill. Others being inducted in November: Zelmo Beaty, Howard Garfinkel, Darrell Griffith and former Stetson coach Glen Wilkes.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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