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Connecticut defeats Butler to win NCAA title

By Steve Ginsburg

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Connecticut overcame a sub-par performance by All-America guard Kemba Walker with an inspired second-half rally to defeat Butler 53-41 Monday and win the NCAA basketball tournament for the third time.

Connecticut (32-9) broke the game open when Jeremy Lamb scored 11 points during a 22-3 run that turned a six-point deficit into a 41-28 lead with less than six minutes to play.

Walker, the Huskies' leading scorer an average of 23.7 points per game, finished with a team-high 16 points on five of 19 shooting from the floor but missed all four of his three-point attempts.

Butler (28-10) hit only 12 of 64 shots (18.8 percent) to lose in the national championship game for the second consecutive year.

The Bulldogs' two best players, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, shot a combined five for 28, dooming Butler's chances of pulling off an upset of the Big East tournament champions.

Mack hit a 23-foot, three-pointer at the first-half buzzer to give Butler a 22-19 lead, the lowest combined point total in the opening 20 minutes since 1945.

The Bulldogs shot 22 percent in the opening half but had the advantage by virtue of hitting five three-pointers, while Connecticut missed all five of their shots beyond the arc.

Butler, a liberal arts school in Indianapolis with 4,200 students, lost the championship game to Duke last year 61-59 when a game-winning shot caromed off the rim at the buzzer.

The Bulldogs lost their best player from a year ago, Gordon Hayward, to the NBA and were widely believed to have little chance of repeating last year's success.

The Huskies were also underdogs of sorts, at least this year, having been picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big East.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)