New England’s long-standing Big East Conference rivalry resumes Wednesday when No. 1 Connecticut welcomes Providence to Hartford in the teams’ first matchup of the season.
Both programs are coming off memorable wins last weekend. UConn (18-2, 8-1 Big East) demolished Xavier 99-56 for its eighth consecutive victory on Sunday, a day after Providence (14-6, 5-4) beat Georgetown 84-76 to spoil former Friars coach Ed Cooley’s return to his hometown.
The Huskies tied a program record with 17 3-pointers and logged a season-high 28 assists in their most recent win, which marked the largest margin of victory in a Big East game this season.
“Obviously (that was) one of our best performances. Both ends of the court, backboard, the depth was there,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “It was great to rise to the moment and put forth our best effort in front of a bunch of champions today.”
Tristen Newton scored 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting to lead the Huskies in a game at which their 2004 national championship team was honored.
Donovan Clingan also gave the Huskies a boost as he made his first start since sustaining a foot injury on Dec. 20. The star center scored 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting while adding eight rebounds and two blocks.
Clingan’s return in recent games has elevated UConn’s defense. The Huskies built a 38-7 lead late in the first half against Xavier, holding the visitors without a field goal for nine minutes at one point.
“There were some brutal film sessions obviously with Donovan being out,” Hurley said. “Now defensively we probably resemble more of a top-five defense, top-10 defense at worst when ‘Cling Kong’ is in there.”
Providence is on a three-game winning streak after losing four straight, but the Saturday triumph over Cooley and the Hoyas was extra special for the Friar faithful.
Devin Carter — whom Cooley recruited to Providence — was the star of the show, pouring in 11 of his game-high 29 points in the final 1:53 to lead the way.
“(Saturday’s) game obviously meant a lot — I still don’t think they’d want us to go 1-29 or 1-30,” Providence coach Kim English said. “It was a game we needed outside of all the extracurriculars, all the fan stuff” surrounding the return of the Friars’ coach for the past 12 seasons.
Carter has successfully elevated his game since the Friars lost Bryce Hopkins to a season-ending injury on Jan. 3, scoring at least 25 points in four of the team’s six full games since and recording a pair of double-doubles.
The junior also went for four rebounds, four steals, two assists and two blocks against Georgetown, contributing to a defense that trails only UConn among Big East teams in opponents’ field-goal percentage.
“Devin Carter has been one of my favorite players that I’ve gotten to coach,” English said. “He’s just a throwback that’s going to find a way to have a long career in the NBA just because he’s so tough and so smart and naturally gifted.”
Against the Hoyas, Josh Oduro added 22 points and Ticket Gaines was the third Friar in double figures with 14.
The teams split two regular-season meetings in 2022-23, with each side winning at home, before the Huskies took a Big East quarterfinal matchup at Madison Square Garden.
–Field Level Media
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