It was not the prettiest second half of Basketball UConn has played this season but it was enough to earn the Huskies their fourth mens NCAA basketball championship as they edged out Kentucky 60-54
UConn jumped all over Kentucky early amassing a 15 point lead during the mid stages of the first half. It loked like the boys from Storrs were going to roll the Wildcats, then Kentucky fought back when UConn fouls forced them to go deep into the bench. At the half UConn led by just two points.
In the second half UConn came shooting blanks from the outside while Kentucky blocked shot after shot on the insdie. Three times in the second half the Wildcats closed to a one point lead but they were never able to take the lead. Connecticut just would not relent the lead, eventually they started hitting some clutch shots.
So one year after having to sit out the NCAA tournament because of a terrible APR the Huskies came back and won it all. And they are there in large part due to their Athletic Director. A man all UB fans know and love, the one, the only Warde Manuel.
It was not being an alumni that made me bleed blue. Like many UB Alumni of my era athletics was not a big part of our campus experience. It the moves made by Warde Manuel that made me a fan of UB Athletics. His attitude when arriving on campus was distinctly different from the "Athletics on the Cheap" attitude which defined UB.
When Warde was in charge just being division one was no longer enough.
He inherited a football program that nobody wanted to coach and turned them into conference champions. He took a department that had never won a title in the MAC and took not only football but Tennis and other titles.
While he was doing all of this Manuel was building the academic which was lacking at Buffalo. Fans did not see vast improvements in Alumni or UB Stadium but the student athletes were getting more classroom support and the APR's and GPA's started to climb.
The whole time that he was doing this the department was clean and scandal free, which was a big plus for a UB basketball team coming off of probation.
Those qualities are what led the Connecticut huskies to poach the UB athletic director. UConn was suffering in football, barred from the post season in basketball, and reeling as an outsider in conference realignment as the Big East Crumbled around them.
Manuel was well received but the struggles in football, plus the further deterioration of the AAC's standing had hurt him in the eyes of some Huskie faithful.
Tonight the former Michigan football player has silenced those detractors. Desipte the Big East defections and the rumblings that the AAC would fall behind UConn picked up the banner and another coach hired by Manuel delivered his team to the promised land.
I'm not a UConn fan but I'll always root for Warde! So tonight I enjoyed watching a good man score anothre big victory in an already impressive career.