(Reuters) - Connecticut's experience trumped Kentucky's youth as the Huskies prevailed with a 60-54 NCAA national championship victory on Monday that completed a turnaround for the recently penalized program.
Connecticut missed last year's NCAA tournament, banned from the post-season after failing to meet academic standards, but they restored order this season as they surged to a second title in four years.
Senior Shabazz Napier, one of three players who were also a part of the 2011 championship team, scored 22 points and paced Connecticut with poise that helped overcome the young and hungry Kentucky team.
James Young scored 20 to lead Kentucky, a program that boasts five freshmen in their starting lineup that took the college basketball tournament by storm in reaching the final.
They fell behind by 15 points in the first half at the home stadium of the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, but clawed their way back to trail just 35-31 at halftime.
Kentucky were never able to take the lead but hung tough down the stretch where they trailed by just four in the final minute.
Connecticut second-year coach Kevin Ollie, a former NBA player, led his program to the title in just his first NCAA tournament.
Seventh seed Connecticut and the eighth seeded Wildcats had the highest combined seeding for any two teams to ever play for a national championship.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles, editing by Nick Mulvenney)