No. 1 seeds Purdue and UConn set for men’s basketball national championship game

The Purdue Boilermakers and the UConn Huskies men’s basketball teams prevailed in their Final Four matchups Saturday, setting the two teams up for the last game of the NCAA Tournament and a chance at a national championship.

Purdue got the action started with a 63-50 decision over the No. 11 North Carolina State Wolfpack, its 34th win of the season. It was the fifth time in as many NCAA Tournament games that the Boilermakers had allowed 68 or fewer points, and it was their most comfortable margin of victory since the second round.

Senior center Zach Edey led both teams with 20 points and 12 rebounds, tacking on four assists and a pair of blocks in 40 minutes of action. Purdue guards Lance Jones, a senior, and Fletcher Loyer, a sophomore, also contributed double-digit points, with 14 and 11, respectively.

“The reason I came back is for playing games like this,” Edey said. “It’s the reason I’m playing college basketball for four years, to finally get this game, big-time.”

The 2024 tournament has gone according to plan for the Boilermakers so far, unlike last year, when they became the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the opening round. The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights shocked the sports world with a 63-58 upset last year, joining the 2018 UMBC Retrievers, who knocked off the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers, 74-54.

Just as Purdue was the second No. 1 seed to join that unceremonious club, it also could follow in the footsteps of Virginia, which bounced back in 2019 to win the national championship. However, the Boilermakers are in for their toughest test of the season: the reigning national champion Huskies.

UConn clinched its second straight appearance in the title game with an 86-72 victory over the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide. It has won 11 straight NCAA Tournament games, all by margins of 13 or greater.

It was not easy for the defending champs, as they stood tied with Alabama with under 13 minutes to play. However, a 30-16 run over the last 12:04 propelled them to their 36th win of the season. All five Husky starters recorded at least 12 points, and freshman guard Stephon Castle paced the squad with 21.

With the semifinal victory, UConn is 40 minutes away from becoming the third program in 64-or-more-team tournaments to win consecutive championships. It would join the 1991-92 Duke Blue Devils and the 2006-07 Florida Gators.

“It feels good, but the job’s not done yet,” sophomore center Donovan Clingan said

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The national championship game is scheduled for 9:20 p.m. Monday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It will be broadcast on TBS.

“A battle of the giants,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “I think it’s just great for college basketball. Us and Purdue have clearly been the two best teams in the country the last two years. I think it’s just great for college basketball to get the two big dogs playing on Monday.”

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