No. 1 UConn steamrolls Stetson to begin title defense

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 22 Mar, 2024 at 11:03 PM

Credit: Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

NEW YORK -- Donovan Clingan scored 12 of his 19 points in the first half for top-seeded UConn, which began the defense of its national championship with a wire-to-wire 91-52 win over No. 16 Stetson in an East Regional first-round game Friday afternoon at Barclays Center.

Cam Spencer had 15 points, including 13 in the first half, for UConn (32-3), which will oppose No. 9 Northwestern in a second-round game Sunday. The Wildcats beat Florida Atlantic 77-65 in overtime earlier in the day.

"We really don't think about what happened last year," Clingan said. "We're really just trying to achieve a new goal this year with this team."

Stephon Castle (14 points), Tristen Newton (13 points, eight assists) and Alex Karaban (12 points) all scored in double figures for the Huskies, whose win was the second-most lopsided NCAA Tournament win in school history behind a 103-47 victory over Chattanooga in a first-round game in 2009.

UConn led 13-2 and pushed its advantage to 36 points in the first half.

"Obviously, love the start," Huskies coach Danny Hurley said. "It's how you want to start a game like this, where you're in March Madness.

"You know the history of these No. 1 or high seeds and they took away all hope in that game from (Stetson) early on with the defense, with the offense, with the relentlessness. So, pretty good first performance."

UConn has won its past seven NCAA Tournament games by an average of 22.7 points.

With the Huskies' win, the No. 1 seed improved to 152-2 all-time against a No. 16 seed since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Stephan Swenson scored a game-high 20 points and Jalen Blackmon had 14 points and eight rebounds for Stetson (22-13), which made its first NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Blackmon said he and his teammates had "a little jitters, but when we settled down, we proved that we could compete with them.

"So we'll be back and try to do better next time," Blackmon said.

Stetson coach Donnie Jones, alongside Swenson and Blackmon in the postgame news conference, lamented the slow start but underscored the strong season.

"What this team, along with these two guys, have been able to accomplish for the first time in the history of this school is something that can't be taken away from tonight's performance," Jones said.

The teams combined to miss their first four shots before UConn began taking control by scoring eight straight points.

Karaban and Clingan scored the first 13 points for the Huskies, who took a 52-19 advantage at intermission.

Stetson, which scored on consecutive possessions just twice in the first half, provided a jolt to its small but enthusiastic cheering section by scoring on nine straight possessions during an 18-8 run early in the second half.

The Hatters pulled within 25 at 60-35 on Swenson's 3-pointer with 15 minutes left.

UConn scored eight of the next 11 points and led by at least 30 points for the final 11:07.

--Jerry Beach, Field Level Media