Notes & Quotes: UConn handles Indiana
The Huskies held a double-digit lead in the first half and ran away with it at the end of the second.
Photos by Ian Bethune
Tristen Newton loves the big stage.
The UConn guard poured in 23 points with 11 rebounds and six assists to lead No. 5 UConn over Indiana 77-57 in the Empire Classic semifinals on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
It was Newton’s first double-double since the national championship game in April, where he led UConn (4-0) with 19 points.
“Coming into MSG in an atmosphere like this, for him it’s exciting, but he’s an accomplished player,” Hurley said.
Cam Spencer added 18 points with five rebounds, while Alex Karaban added 13 points and six boards. Malik Reneau led the way for Indiana (3-1), scoring 18 points, but fouled out with seven minutes left in the contest, sparking a 10-0 Husky run that put this game well out of reach.
UConn players made an assist on 19 of 25 field goals, as Hassan Diarra matched Newton with six assists. Hurley’s squad dominated the rebounding battle and held Indiana under 40 percent shooting in both halves.
“UConn always shows up here,” head coach Dan Hurley said, expressing that he was pleased with the overall performance and atmosphere in the arena. “I was impressed by what the boys did.”
The Huskies have posted 21 straight double-digit victories against non-conference foes. Newton and Karaban have scored in double-figures in all four games this season.
UConn (4-0) will play No. 19 Texas (4-0) in the Empire Classic championship game. The Longhorns beat Louisville 81-80 in the other semifinal game.
Here’s a closer look at the victory:
What Went Well
Veteran Presence: With Stephon Castle still sitting, Newton and Spencer were huge. The duo combined for more than half of UConn’s offense. In addition to scoring. Both were doing it consistently throughout the game.
Head coach Dan Hurley: “We lost a lot from last year’s team, so you never really know coming in here today, get in front of a crowd like that, first time that this team has taken the court with some electricity in the building… That’s a heck of a backcourt right there.”
Tristen Newton: “They rely on me to be aggressive. … They have trust in me to go out and perform how I feel like I need to perform.”
2. Glass Owned. Sophomore Donovan Clingan pulled down nine boards and the Huskies dominated the glass with a 44-22 edge. UConn had 15 offensive boards and a 16-0 advantage in second-chance points. Hurley credited Jim Calhoun’s “two-on-two rebounding drill… shoutout to the G.O.A.T.”
Indiana head coach Mike Woodson: “It was glaring tonight that we got out-toughed.”
Hurley: “We didn’t shoot particularly well from three, I thought we did the hard things really well against a Big Ten team with that front court.”
Defense Shows Up. Through the first three games, UConn’s offensive prowess outshone its defense. On Sunday, the Huskies held Indiana to 38 percent shooting on the day and just 23 percent (3-of-13) from three.
Hurley: “Their strength is their fours and fives, and it’s Johnson and Galloway cutting and slashing, We didn’t do a good enough job on Malik, [tried to shut down Ware] Donovan could handle that one-on-one for the most part…Really it was just about taking away the paint, and getting in gaps.”
What Needs Work
Bench Production: It was a quiet night for the Husky reserves with just a combined seven points and 11 rebounds from eight players. Hassan Diarra was the most productive with five boards and six assists. However, moving forward the Huskies need more from that group.
Newton: “The freshmen, we try to make it easier for them, but in any game, we have to step up and do our jobs.”
Dominating Bigs. This was a tough matchup down low for Donovan Clingan and Samson Johnson. While they played alright, they also probably learned a lot about where they need to grow thanks to the step up in competition from the first three games. Clingan finished with seven points on three attempts and did a better job on his free throws, hitting 5-of-8, while pulling down nine rebounds and playing a season-high 30 minutes. But he also committed two turnovers and didn’t always get the best of his matchup in the post. Johnson looked improved from the “step back” he took against MVSU, finishing with two points, four rebounds, and a block in 11 minutes.
UConn moved up to No. 3 in KenPom after comfortably taking this win. The Huskies covered the Vegas (13.5) and KenPom (12) spread for the Indiana game.
The site projects a 75-68 victory for the Huskies Monday night against Texas.
All season, UConn has done a great job of shooting from the best possible spots on the floor, as chronicled by Twitter’s @Noescalators (the “revolting” part is sarcasm, I think):
Three mid-range shots yesterday. Huskies have now taken a revolting seven in four games.
Three of the seven came with five or fewer seconds on the shot clock, which would make me feel a bit better, except they hit two of those three, making the other four (1/4) seem even worse
— No Escalators (@NoEscalators)
Nov 20, 2023
Through the first three games, against a much lower level of competition, UConn kept its shot chart nearly perfect. Tougher games lead to tougher shots, but overall this is a good sign of the offensive discipline and prowess of this team.
In the post-game press conference, Hurley acknowledged that they took more mid-range shots than he wanted and that the game was a bit of a “rock fight” early before they improved offensively.
Freshman Stephon Castle (knee) missed his second straight game and is expected to be out until early next month. Hurley said on Friday that Castle underwent a minor procedure on the knee and would miss two to four weeks. … Ball started in his place for the second straight game, finishing with nine points in 26 minutes. … UConn is 7-4 all-time against the Hoosiers. … Head coach Dan Hurley is now 12-3 at UConn in in-season MTE play and 7-6 at UConn inside Madison Square Garden. … The Huskies’ next home game is Friday against Manhattan at the XL Center.
Tonight, vs. No. 19 Texas (4-0), at Madison Square Garden in New York, 7 p.m. (ESPN)