Men's College Basketball

Newton’s Triple-Double Lifts UConn Past Villanova


Connecticut Husky guard Tristen Newton shoots over the outstretched arms of Villanova Wildcats guard T.J. Bamba at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday. Photo by Steve Zarrella/Sportspage Magazine.

UConn guard Tristen Newton notched the fourth triple-double of his career and second of the season as the Huskies downed the Villanova Wildcats 78-54 in front of 10,299 spectators at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. on Saturday night.

The game opened with a three-pointer from Husky guard Stephon Castle for the 3-0 lead, but Villanova went 0-4 in the next two minutes before forward Eric Dixon’s jump shot made it a 3-2 score. Dixon scored the first six Wildcat points before guard T.J. Bamba’s shot tied the game 8-8 with 14:12 left in the half.

The game was tied 10-10 after Wildcat guard Justin Moore and Castle exchanged baskets. Then the Huskies locked down their defense. Forward Samson Johnson and center Donovan Clingan scored layups for the Huskies, followed by a three-pointer by guard Cam Spencer to give UConn a 9-0 run and a 17-10 lead with 7:45 still on the clock until halftime.

A jump shot by Bamba and a three-pointer by Moore enabled the Wildcats so pull within three points, 18-15, but that was promptly answered by a three-pointer by Spencer to give the Huskies breathing room. Three pointers by Newton and Spencer in the last 3:20 of the half pushed the lead up back up to ten points.

The score was 31-21 in favor of UConn at the half, thanks in part to the Huskies seven blocked shots during the first 20 minutes of play. Villanova blocked two shots in the first half. They would get an additional one in the second half.

Villanova Wildcats forward Eric Dixon goes in for a layup while UConn Husky center Donovan Clingan tried to defend during Saturday’s game at Gampel Pavilion. Photo by Steve Zarrella/Sportspage Magazine

Both teams exchanged baskets to begin the third quarter and the Wildcats threatened to get back into it. Bamba scored on a jump shot. Wildcat guard Mark Armstrong dunked, and Dixon hit a deep three-pointer, forcing UConn head coach Dan Hurley to call a timeout to regroup his team while trying to end the Villanova 7-0 run. The score was 38-33 in favor of the Huskies with 15:08 remaining in the contest and the momentum clearly on the side of the visiting team.

After the timeout, the game see-sawed back and forth as Spencer and guard Hassan Diarra each scored, but that was answered by baskets from Wildcats guards Jordan Longino and Justin Moore.

A five point deficit with 11:34 left in regulation was the closest that Villanova would come to getting back in the game. Spencer scored the next six points that sparked a 14-1 UConn run that ended on a Diarra fast break layup three minutes later. The score was now 59-41. The Wildcats now had two opponents to face in the next 8:31 – UConn and the clock.

The teams traded baskets for the duration of the game and Villanova couldn’t make up any ground. Meanwhile, the Huskies were faced with another challenge – getting Newton to score two points and dish one assist in the last 5:08 to secure the triple-double.

It wasn’t easy. Even as Newton fed teammates the ball for the last assist needed, they got fouled on the shot. Johnson was fouled by Longino, who made one of two free throws. Castle was fouled by Dixon and made both free throws. Newton was fouled by Moore with 2:00 left on the clock. His two free throws gave him a double-double with one assist to go to notch the triple-double.

Villanova Wildcats forward Eric Dixon and UConn Husky center Donovan Clingan race each other down the court in transition during Saturday’s contest at Gampel Pavilion. Photo by Steve Zarrella/Sportspage Magazine

It wasn’t looking promising. Clingan and Castle were both fouled and converted all four of the free shots. The score was now 73-54 with 1:29 remaining.

With just 25 ticks on the clock to go, Newton found forward Alex Karaban for an open three-pointer. After going 0-7 in the game, Karaban was able to find all net and give Newton his 10th and final assist of the game and the triple-double. Newton’s four career triple-doubles is the most among active Division I men’s basketball players.

UConn forward Jaylin Stewart, playing in his sixth minute of the game off the bench, was fouled by Moore with 12.7 seconds left on the clock. Moore connected on both free throws to make the final score 78-54 in favor of the Huskies.

The Huskies went 24-for-56 from the field (42.8 percent); 10-for-32 from three-point range (31.3 percent); and 20-for-22 from the free throw line (90.9 percent). UConn turned the ball over seven times. They recorded seven blocks, all in the first half, along with two steals and 14 assists.

Cam Spencer led all scorers with 25. Stephon Castle added 14 for UConn, Donovan Clingan chipped in 13 and Tristen Newton finished with 10 points. Newton also led the Huskies with 16 rebounds and 10 assists.

Richard “Rip” Hamilton (left), who played three seasons at UConn and led the team to their first national championship in 1999, became the fourth basketball player in UConn history to have their jersey retired. Photo by Steve Zarrella/Sportspage Magazine

“Championship response,” said Husky head coach Dan Hurley. “We just got back to our identity today, in every way – on the backboard defensively, and it could have been a 48, 49 or 50 percent offensive shooting night and a 20 assist game if we made more shots.”

The Wildcats went 21-for-63 from the field (33.3 percent); 3-for-24 from three-point range (12.5 percent) and 9-for-13 from the free throw line (69.2 percent). They turned the ball over three times, recorded three block, five steals and six assists on the game.

Villanova was led by 20 points from Eric Dixon and 13 points from T.J. Bamba. Dixon led the Wildcats in rebounding with eight, and Hakim Hart led with two assists.

“I thought in the half court, we did a pretty good job. We played personnel pretty well. I thought we rebounded, at times, pretty well. Defensively I thought we could have been a lot better,” said Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune. “We had our times when we had a couple runs. Unfortunately they got 18 points in transition. It’s tough to beat a team here when they make so many points in transition.”

The No. 1 ranked UConn Huskies (25-3 overall, 15-2 conference) will host the Seton Hall Pirates (18-9 overall, 11-5 conference) at the Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn., for a noon ET game on Sunday March 3 after an week off.

Villanova (15-12 overall, 8-8 conference) hosts the Georgetown Hoyas (9-18 overall, 2-14 conference) on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. ET at the Finneran Pavilion in Villanova, Pa.

NOTE: During a halftime ceremony, the Huskies retired the No. 32 worn by Richard “Rip” Hamilton, who led UConn to their first national title in 1999. Hamilton scored 2,036 points during his three seasons with the team. He is the fourth basketball player in school history to have their jersey retired, after Ray Allen, Rebecca Lobo and Swin Cash. Donovan Clingan, the player who currently wears No. 32 will be allowed to keep wearing the number.

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