ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Shabazz Napier scored 19 points, Ryan Boatright had 12 and Connecticut was up 48-45 over freshman-laden Kentucky in the second half after leading by double digits before halftime of the championship game Monday night.
The game went scoreless for nearly 3 minutes early in the second half when DeAndre Daniels tipped in his own miss to put UConn up 41-37 with 12:18 left.
James Young, who was leading Kentucky with 16 points, made two free throws before Niels Giffey knocked down a 3-pointer from the left side and Boatright made two free throws after steal for a 46-39 lead.
Napier then hit a shot for a nine-point edge before Young dunked over Amida Brimah and was fouled. He made the free throw to cut the deficit back to six.
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 Huskies had two starting seniors who played roles on UConn's 2011 championship team — Napier, the point guard, and Giffey.
UConn took its biggest lead of the first half at 30-15 on a pair of free throws from Giffey.
Kentucky answered with five quick points on a 3-pointer by Young and a steal and dunk for the only points of the half from Aaron Harrison, who got the Wildcats to the title game with decisive 3-pointers in three straight games.
Young led Kentucky with 10 points in the first half, including one of his two first-half 3-pointers during an 11-2 run to finish the half.
Harrison's twin brother, Andrew, had a 3-pointer in the late run and finished with eight points and four assists.
The Harrison twins are from the Houston area, about 250 miles from the 80,000-seat home of the Dallas Cowboys that was hosting its first Final Four. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was hosting former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in his suite in the $1.2 billion showplace.
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.
Another of those Kentucky freshmen, Julius Randle was playing in the Dallas area he calls home and had a chance at a three-point play with 2.9 seconds left but missed the free throw. Randle had six points before halftime.
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 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.
Aaron Harrison struggled in the first half. He got just three shots, making one for two points, before hitting a 3-pointer to get Kentucky within a point to start the second half.
Kentucky was without sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein because of an ankle injury. Poythress tweaked a knee in the celebration after the Wildcats beat Wisconsin in the semifinals Saturday.