Top-ranked UConn remains unbeaten at home and can stretch its winning streak to eight games when the Huskies return from an extended breather eyeing a season sweep of Xavier in Storrs, Conn., on Saturday.
The Huskies (17-2, 7-1 Big East) are 10-0 at home and 2-0 since they moved into the No. 1 spot in the Top 25 poll.
They already have a win over Xavier this season with the rematch here only 17 days later.
UConn’s most recent win was last week in it’s latest application of their own version of Newton’s Law.
When shots go up for Tristen Newton lately, they’re almost certainly going down.
He is coming off of his fourth 20-point game this season. He tallied 25 points in the 66-65 win at Villanova, his second-highest output of the season (31 vs. Kansas).
Newton and Cam Spencer are each averaging a team-high 15.4 points per game.
“Tristen was awesome,” UConn coach Danny Hurley said. “He played like one of the better guards in the country. It was a gut-check win. I think you saw a program that had confidence down the stretch, a championship level of confidence that we now have and our ability to win games in clutch moments.”
The Huskies are trying to become the first program to win back-to-back national titles since Florida in 2006-07.
Xavier (10-9, 4-4 Big East) had its three-game winning streak end when it dropped an 85-78 decision at Creighton on Tuesday. Desmond Claude and Dayvion McKnight each scored 20 points for the Musketeers in the loss.
Claude tossed in 18 points in the first half, but missed each of his eight shots from the field after halftime. McKnight, who made a career-high four 3-pointers, is averaging 19.3 points over the last three games and has scored in double figures in eight of the last 11 games.
“There were a flurry of plays in the second half where they got second and maybe third shots, and it happened in bunches, maybe three or four minutes,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said. “That’s where they got confidence and broke the game open.
“Our guys played with great energy, played hard. I thought we came with great focus and had some really good moments in the game. We didn’t have enough great moments to win.”
The Musketeers are 1-4 on the road and have lost six consecutive games against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 24 Creighton 82-60 in the Big East Tournament last season.
UConn has been bolstered by the return of 7-foot-2-inch center Donovan Clingan, who has appeared in two games since missing five straight contests with a tendon injury in his right foot. Clingan had six points and seven rebounds against Villanova. He’s averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
“Now that Donovan is back, we’ll have some practice time where we can offensively do some things where he could become a much bigger factor for us offensively,” Hurley said. “With the way he’s come back to the lineup, we had no practice time to integrate him into what we’re doing.”
Clingan didn’t play in the first meeting between these teams this season. Spencer scored 19 points and Newton had 16 to help UConn win that matchup 80-75 at Xavier on Jan. 10.
Quincy Olivari (24) and Claude (15) were Xavier’s leading scorers in the loss. Olivari ranks third among Big East players in scoring (17.9) and Claude is 10th (16.2).
UConn hasn’t allowed more than 67 points in a home game this season, and is allowing an average of 59 points per game at home in its eight Big East contests.
–Field Level Media
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