Men's College Basketball

Efficient Huskies sink Golden Eagles, 81-53


UConn Huskies center Donovan Clingan executes one of his three dunks against the Marquette Golden Eagles at Hartford’s XL Center on Saturday. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

The top-ranked UConn Huskies rolled over the fourth-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles 81-53 in front of an announced crowd of 15,684 at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., on Saturday.

Husky center Donovan Clingan opened the scoring with a layup just 15 seconds into the game, which was promptly answered by a jump shot from Marquette forward David Joplin for the game’s first tie.

UConn forward Alex Karaban scored on a layup to give the Huskies the 4-2 lead. However, Golden Eagles forward Oso Ighodaro’s dunk tied the game again.

The Huskies used back-to-back three-pointers from guards Cam Spencer and Hassan Diarra to pull out a 14-10 lead with 13:07 remaining in the half, but Marquette guards Kam Jones and Stevie Mitchell led their own rally and soon the game was tied again, 16-16.

Spencer, fouled by Joplin, made two free throws to break the tie, but Ighodaro’s jump shot made it 18-18 with 10:18 left, for the game’s sixth and final tied score.

UConn jumped out on a 9-0 run over the next five minutes. Forward Jaylin Stewart scored his only points of the game on a layup, guard Stephon Castle hit a three-pointer, Spencer made a layup and forward Samson Johnson’s dunk put an exclamation point on the run! The score was 27-18 with 5:39 remaining in the half.

Marquette Golden Eagles forward Oso Ighodaro dunks over UConn center Donovan Clingan in the first half of Saturday’s game at Hartford’s XL Center. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Marquette answered with three pointers from guards Tyler Kolek and Chase Ross to make the score 29-24, before the Huskies answered with a 13-0 run of their own, due in part to seven points from guard Tristen Newton. A Kam Jones jump shot with 37 seconds left in the half broke the UConn run as the Huskies took a 42-26 lead into halftime. UConn finished the half on a 24-8 run.

The Golden Eagles regrouped at halftime and were able to keep up with UConn in the second half, as the two teams resorted to trading baskets again. Every time that Marquette scored, the Huskies had an effective counter. The reason was that the Golden Eagles did not have an answer for Donovan Clingan, the 7-foot-2 UConn center, whose second dunk of the game gave the Huskies a 51-30 lead with 15:54 remaining in regulation.

Kam Jones took matters into his own hands and tried to will the Golden Eagles across the finish line. He scored on a layup and was fouled by Newton for the “and one,” and then hit a three pointer two possessions later.

It was Newton who provided the UConn answer with back-to-back three-pointers, forcing Marquette to call their final timeout of the game with 9:04 left on the clock. After the timeout, Kolek was fouled by Diarra and made his two free shots to make the score 65-45.

Then Clingan went on a rampage.

He dunked. He scored a layup. He went 1-for-2 from the foul line after being fouled by Joplin. The only answer from Marquette was a jump shot from guard Tre Norman for his first points of the game. UConn led 70-47 with 6:44 remaining.

UConn Huskies guard Cam Spencer scored 14 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, dished 3 assists and stole the ball once during Saturday’s game against Marquette at Hartford’s XL Center. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

Knowing that they were battling their opponents and the clock, the Golden Eagles resorted to throwing up perimeter shots for the rest of the quarter, but their shots were not falling. Two dunks from Ighodaro and a jump shot from Tre Norman, for his second and final basket of the game, was all that Marquette could muster during the final five minutes. UConn won 81-53 when the final buzzer sounded.

With the loss, Marquette’s all-time record against No. 1 ranked opponents fell to 3-12.

The Huskies went 29-for-63 (46.0 percent) from the field; 11-for-30 (36.7 percent) from beyond the arc, and 12-of-14 (85.7) from the free throw line. Donovan Clingan led all scorers with 17. Tristen Newton added 15, while Cam Spencer and Hassan Diarra each added 14. Clingan led all rebounders with 10, while Diarra’s six assists led both teams.

“That first media timeout felt like the first round in a heavyweight fight. We were incredibly frustrated because we could not grab the ball,” said Huskies head coach Dan Hurley. “We locked in defensively and we started to take over on the board offensively. Any time you go 24 assists on 29 field goals is going to be a good day.’

The Golden Eagles went 21-for-57 (36.8 percent) from the field; 5-for-23 (21.7 percent) from three point range; and 6-for-8 (75.0 percent) from the charity stripe. Kam Jones led Marquette with 15 points while Oso Ighodaro scored 14, the only other player in double digits scoring. Ighodaro, Kam Jones and David Jopkin each grabbed four rebounds each, while Ighordaro and Tyler Kolek each dished three assists.

“I like how our guys started the game. I think it was 18-18 ten minutes into the game or so, but once the offensive rebounding edge flipped and they kept getting a bunch of second chance shots and we weren’t getting as many, that was a big big difference in the game,” said Marquette head coach Shaka Smart. “We’re going to have to be much much better defending any team that moves like this.”

No. 1 ranked UConn (24-2) will travel to Omaha, Neb., to play the Creighton Blue Jays on Tuesday. Marquette (19-6) hosts DePaul on Wednesday in Milwaukee.

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