On a night when the massive arena felt like a dusty old gym, UConn made Butler look like the underdog it really was, winning the national championship Monday night with an old-fashioned, grinding 53-41 win over the Bulldogs.
Walker finished with 16 points for the Huskies (32-9), who won their 11th consecutive game since closing the regular season with a 9-9 Big East record that foreshadowed none of this.
They closed it out with a defensive showing for the ages, holding Butler to a 12 for 64 shooting. That's 18.8 percent, the worst ever in a title game.
At age 68, Jim Calhoun became the oldest coach to win the NCAA championship and joined John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as only the fifth coach to win three NCAA titles.
"It may be the happiest moment of my life," Calhoun said.
UConn trailed 22-19 after a first half that came straight out of the 1940s.
"The halftime speech was rather interesting," Calhoun said. "The adjustment was, we were going to out-will them and outwork them."
And so they did.
Connecticut outscored Butler by an unthinkable 26-2 in the paint. The Bulldogs (28-10), in their second consecutive title game, went a mind-numbing 13 minutes, 26 seconds in the second half making only one field goal.
During that time, a 25-19 lead turned into a 41-28 deficit. This for a team that never trailed Duke by more than six during last year's epic final.
That time, Gordon Hayward's desperation halfcourt heave bounced off the backboard and rim, barely missing. This time, UConn was celebrating before the buzzer sounded.
"You see the tears on my face," Walker said. "I have so much joy in me, it's unreal. It's surreal. I'm so happy right now."
Joining Walker, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, in double figures were Jeremy Lamb with 12 points and Alex Oriakhi with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Just as impressive were the stats UConn piled up on defense. Four steals and 10 blocks, including four each by Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, and a total clampdown of Butler's biggest stars, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. Howard went 1 for 13 and Mack went 4 for 15.
ERIC GAY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
\nMARK HUMPHREY/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Butler's Matt Howard guards UConn's Kemba Walker, who after guiding the Huskies to the title was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.