By Steve Ginsburg

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Jeremy Lamb scored just 12 points in Connecticut's 53-41 victory over Butler in the NCAA basketball championship game Monday but he was at his best when it mattered most.

"Going into halftime, I didn't I have any points," he said. "My team mates just encouraged me saying, 'We need you.' Coach (Jim Calhoun) got into me.

"He was just encouraging me, saying, 'Let's go, pick it up.' Right out of the half, they ran a couple plays for me. I was able to get to the foul line.

"All I wanted to see was the ball go in the net. After I saw it go in a couple times, I got my confidence back and was able to knock down some shots."

Kemba Walker, the Huskies' All-America guard who hit only five of 19 shots and finished with 16 points, said Lamb had grown a lot throughout the season.

"Early in the season, he didn't have much confidence," he said. "He just didn't know his role on his team. As things started getting tough for me, I started to tell Jeremy, 'You're going to have to score.'

"Once he realized that he was going to get open shots, I was going to find him, he started to find the right spots and he started to make shots."

"He's a hard worker. He's in the gym every night. Coach would tell him, 'Jeremy, don't shoot.' Jeremy would still go shoot. Jeremy would have a bad game and go straight to the gym after that. All his hard work pays off."

Connecticut was picked to finish 10th in the Big East Conference and Lamb said that made Monday's victory even sweeter.

"Starting the season ... there were a lot of doubters," he said. "People said we were young. People said we were a one-man team, Kemba didn't have any help, no post players, anything like that.

"As the season went on, we just kept working, kept working. We end up being a good overall team. Kemba just led us really. So it feels good right now."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)