ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright scored eight points apiece and Connecticut took a 26-15 first-half lead over freshman-laden Kentucky in the national championship game Monday night.
Napier had a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run that gave the Huskies a 13-6 lead, and Boatright made a reverse layup to push the margin to 17-8 and force Wildcats coach John Calipari to call a timeout.
The matchup between seventh-seeded UConn and No. 8 seed Kentucky is the highest combined seeds for a title game since the system was implemented in 1979.
The Wildcats are trying to win their second title in three seasons with the first all-freshman starting five since Michigan's Fab Five lost in 1992.
The young Kentucky team was tentative early, getting just nine shots and making only two in the first 8 minutes before Alex Poythress followed a miss by Andrew Harrison with a dunk.
Andrew Harrison led the Wildcats early with five points.
Aaron Harrison, who hit decisive 3-pointers in three straight games before the title matchup, missed his only shot in the first 10 minutes.
The Huskies had two starting seniors who played roles on UConn's 2011 championship team — Napier, the point guard, and forward Niels Giffey.
Kentucky was without sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein because of an ankle injury. Sophomore forward Alex Poythress was expected to play after tweaking a knee in the celebration after the Wildcats beat Wisconsin in the semifinals Saturday.