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Mar 22, 2024 5:40 pm

No. 1 UConn steamrolls Stetson to begin title defense

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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.

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 has won its last 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.

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 their first double-digit lead at 13-2 with 14:31 left and eventually led by as many as 36 in the first half before taking 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

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