Madison Square Garden—The UConn men’s basketball has won three in a row and is starting to play with a lot of confidence and swagger in the last few weeks.
The Huskies checks in at the No.5 spot in the Associate Press Top 25 of the regular season and No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Center Donovan Clingan, the 7-foot-2 sophomore, has connected on 65.5% of his shots inside the paint this season. Through three games, UConn have made 73.2% of their shots inside the arc this season and will try its luck against the Hoosiers this afternoon.
Newton scored 23 points and 11 boards to help the Huskies beat Indiana 77-57 in the first game of SAATVA Empire Classic at Madison Garden.
“Obviously, awesome first kind of big game here. The crowd was awesome. UConn always shows up here, but I thought Indiana had a hell of showing. Looking at the crowd before the game it was a lot of Indiana here in New York.
Awesome atmosphere on a night where we didn’t shoot particularly well from three. I thought we did the hard things well to go plus 22 on the backboard against a Big 10 with that front court. Then just the back court with these two guys (Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer), just incredible performance by these two guys.”
UConn shut down five star prospect forward Mackenzie Mgbako limited his touches and made it difficult for him to get comfortable in the paint. Mgbako finished the game with two points in 23 minutes of work.
In the first half, the Hoosiers started slow and was down early 14-8 at the 11:34 mark but Kel’el Ware hit a huge three to give Indiana some relief on the perimeter. When UConn looked like that they might run the Hoosiers off the hardwood, Indiana responded with a 9-2 run to inch closer and was down 37-30 at the break. But that was it, they looked a little gassed in the first framed.
In the first half, the Hoosiers shot 37.0% (10-27) from the field and 33.3 % (2-6) from beyond the arc. Indiana couldn’t buy a basket in the first half of play.
In the second half, the Huskies ran their offense through Cam Spencer—-when the Hoosiers collapsed on him, he kicked the ball out to Newton and he made Indiana pay for leaving him open on the perimeter. He drained a jumper to stretch the lead to 11 points at 54-43 with 12:08 to play. The Hoosiers never got closer than 10 the rest of the contest.
The Huskies out-rebounded the Hoosiers 44-22 and had 32 points in the paint that was the difference in the game. Indiana got beat up on the glass.
Malik Reneau scored 18 points and Kel’el Ware chipped in 11 points along with 8 boards for the Hoosiers.
“I think we need better ball movement. I go back to Wright State game, we had ball movement, set screens. But you’ve got to give to Connecticut all the credit. I thought they were the more physical team. Both teams were battling early, but to start the second half, they just took us out of everything we wanted to do in terms of ball movement, I’ve got to do a better job at getting our team in better position-I can’t make shots for them, but I’ve got to get them in better position to get better shots”.
UConn will play the winner of the Texas and Louisville game for the championship tomorrow night at the Garden.