Making 3s doesn’t always mean a win

HOUSTON (AP) — The 3-point line is what has brought the top and middle of college basketball much closer than ever.

But success from behind that stripe that sits 20 feet, 9 inches from the rim doesn’t always mean victory, and a poor performance doesn’t mean a loss.

Connecticut’s 56-55 victory over Kentucky in the Final Four on Saturday night proved that.

The Huskies won despite making just one of 12 attempts from 3-point range, while Kentucky finished 9 of 27, including going 7 of 15 in the second half.

The 8.3 percent outing was Connecticut’s worst long-range effort of the season, the previous worst was 2 for 14 (14.3 percent) and that also came in a win, 66-61 in overtime against South Florida on Dec. 31.

The game’s first big twist was because of 3-pointers. Connecticut led 31-21 at halftime. Both teams combined for a total of three 3s, and two were by the team that was trailing.

The Wildcats came out torrid from behind the line to start the second half.

Brandon Knight and Darius Miller both hit 3s to start Kentucky’s 14-2 run to open the second half, and Doron Lamb and Knight capped the spurt with two more 3s.

Lamb hit a 3 to tie the game at 42 with 11:15 left. DeAndre Liggins hit a 3 to halve Connecticut’s biggest lead of the second half, making it 54-51 with 1:37 left.

The last 3 of the game was by Knight at the buzzer, but it was a cruel shot that left the Wildcats a point short of going to the title game to face Butler.

Connecticut didn’t hit any of its six 3-point attempts in the second half, but sometimes that just doesn’t matter.

“We were not getting any shots to go at all,” said Connecticut freshman Shabazz Napier, who sealed the win by making both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1.7 seconds to play that gave the Huskies a four-point lead. “That is unusual for us.”

The Huskies came into the game shooting 33.7 percent from 3-point range, and they made an average of 5.9 per game. Those numbers were even better in the four NCAA tournament games — 38.4 percent and seven per game.

Kemba Walker, Connecticut’s All-America guard who has led the Huskies’ 10-game postseason winning streak by averaging 26.3 points per game, had Connecticut’s lone 3-pointer, and it came in five attempts. Napier missed all four of his attempts, Jeremy Lamb missed both of his and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel misfired on one. That’s 1 for 12.

But what made the difference for Connecticut was the defense it employed in the first half to keep the Wildcats under control from long range in building the halftime lead.

“We ran them off of the 3-point line. We talked a lot about that,” Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. “The big guys helped out early and got that 10-point lead. I felt very comfortable except for the rebounding. Then the second half they came out and made four straight. Now we’re in a whole different kind of ballgame.”

Liggins had his personal battle with making and missing 3-point shots.

“I mean, when I hit that 3, I gave my team a chance to win,” Liggins said of the one that made it 54-51.

Then he missed a 3 with 3 seconds to play that would have put the Wildcats in front.

“No, it wasn’t,” he said when asked if the play was designed for him to take a 3. “I should have drove it. But I hit a 3 and I got fouled and I made a shot. And I thought I had the hot hand a little bit. It was a good shot, but it fell short.”

Just like Kentucky.

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