I really don't know what to say.
How do you put into words a performance like we just saw?
UConn is headed to its fifth Final Four after beating No. 4 Michigan State 60-54 in a game that virtually everyone who doesn't bleed blue thought the Spartans would win. UConn has done this a year after being locked out of the postseason because the NCAA wanted to be tough on academics in the only way it knows how – arbitrarily and unfairly.
UConn did this by locking down Michigan State's best player and winning the battle in the paint, forcing the Spartans to win by playing UConn's game – hitting lots of threes. Of course, Michigan State almost did just that, but when it came down to crunch time, the Huskies made their shots, the Huskies grabbed their rebounds, and the Huskies made their free throws.
Now? UConn is going to Dallas, and I couldn't be more proud to be a Husky.
This was a monumental win for the program. This was a win that showed everyone across the country that UConn basketball is bigger than just Jim Calhoun, and that this is Kevin Ollie's program now. This was a win that demonstrated how hard work and persevering through tough circumstances can pay off. Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander all could have bailed on the program, but they didn't, and now they're going to get a shot at their second championship.
This was a win that has gotten the attention of national pundits everywhere, the same ones that shamefully ignored UConn even as Shabazz Napier was setting the world on fire and even as the Huskies were winning in spite of the enormous obstacles placed in their way.
This was a win that has gotten those same pundits to wonder aloud how the hell UConn was left out in the cold during conference realignment, and how people could possibly justify the ridiculous notion that Rutgers somehow dominates the New York market.
This was a defining moment for UConn athletics.
It didn't come easy, that's for sure. After taking a 12-2 lead early, UConn went cold and suddenly the Spartans couldn't miss a shot from behind the arc. Michigan State shot 11-for-29 from three point range in the game, and coupled with some excellent defense in the paint, the Spartans were able to finish the first half on a 23-9 run, going into halftime up 35-31.
Things got worse in the beginning of the second half, when Michigan State extended their lead to nine points, but then UConn responded. The Huskies held Michigan State without a point for nearly seven minutes, and suddenly a nine point hole turned into a 10 point lead. UConn was rolling, and after fending off a late Michigan State comeback, the Huskies were able to win the same way they beat Iowa State, by playing stout defense and making their free throws.
The clincher came with about 37 seconds to play, when Shabazz Napier was fouled while taking a three, and then calmly drilled all three of his free throws to put the Huskies up 56-51. Michigan State guard Keith Appling, who had a miserable game, fouled out in the process, and that was pretty much all she wrote.
I think Shabazz Napier's legacy as an assassin and a cold-blooded killer on the court was established long before this afternoon, but this game was just the latest example of how no matter who UConn is playing, the Huskies have a chance if Shabazz is on his game. Napier scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half, along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists to lead the Huskies to victory.
DeAndre Daniels had another big game too, scoring 12 points to go with 8 rebounds, and Ryan Boatright played lockdown defense while contributing 11 points of his own.
Michigan State's Adreian Payne, meanwhile, had 13 points and 9 rebounds, but surprisingly did most of his damage from behind the arc. Gary Harris led the Spartans with 22 points, and Appling was a non-factor, scoring two points while turning the ball over four times and fouling out.
When the final buzzer sounded, it was pure ecstasy. Now, UConn has a chance to go to North Texas and remind Florida what it feels like to lose.
You know, like this.