UConn men enter history books with double digit win over New Hampshire
Storrs — One year, eight months and 10 days prior to Monday’s game, UConn walked off the court after an upsetting loss to New Mexico State in the NCAA tournament first round action in Buffalo.
The painful defeat still bothers Hurley.
Since that day, Hurley has engineered a remarkable run. The Huskies haven’t dropped a non-conference game and won the program’s fifth national championship in April.
They’ve dominated their competition on the way to setting the record for most consecutive non-conference victories by double digits at 24.
They moved into sole possession of the impressive mark by beating New Hampshire, 84-64, at Gampel Pavilion, passing previous record holder North Carolina, which accomplished the feat in 2008-09.
“It’s great to share a record with the men from this year’s team and the men from last year’s team,” Hurley said. “They’re such great men – Andre (Jackson), Adama (Sanogo), Jordan (Hawkins), Naheim (Alleyne) and Joey (Calcaterra). It’s great to share something with them that will be tough to break moving forward in today’s game with the portal and everything that’s going on.
“It just speaks to the respect that we have for our opponents, the level of preparation that we put in for every single game and just the formula that these guys buy into – the rebounding, the defense, the sharing the ball on offense. Proud of them.”
Overall, No. 4 UConn (7-0) has captured 13 straight games dating back to the start of last season’s NCAA tournament.
Both streaks will be put on the line on Friday when UConn visits No. 5 Kansas in Lawrence. Then the Huskies will face No. 17 North Carolina in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday in New York and also play No. 11 Gonzaga on Dec. 15 in Seattle.
“We’re ready for those games,” Hurley said. “There’s more anxiety involved in these types of games (tonight). … When you get to go play these Kansas type of games, the Carolina games, the Gonzaga games, these are the fun ones. You gain a lot from winning.”
From UConn’s perspective, the most encouraging development was the strong inside play of sophomore Donovan Clingan who looks like he’s shaken off the rust from missing a month during preseason with a foot injury. He scored a career high 29 points and made his first 10 shots before finishing 12 for 13 from the field.
“It definitely felt good to see the ball go in,” Clingan said. “I had a decent performance, but I just feel like we still, as a team, have got to be much better for what’s coming on Friday.”
Clingan and grad transfer Cam Spencer (17 points) combined for 35 of the team’s first 56 points in a game that UConn never trailed after taking an 11-8 lead.
Fresh off his record-setting third career triple double on Friday, graduate guard Tristen Newton got off to a slow start and still had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
It was a messy game at times. Forty-one fouls were called, leading to the two teams parading to the free throw line. UNH took all 29 of its free throws in the second half.
UConn shot a respectable 45.7 percent overall, but went just 4 of 28 from the 3-point zone. Alex Karaban and Newton went a combined 0 for 11 from three.
“These guys need to get off their phones and need to get off the video game headset and get in the gym, because those are wide open looks (from three),” Hurley said.
The Huskies played terrific defense but had some lapses. While they forced 13 turnovers in the first half, they allowed UNH to convert 50 percent. They still held a comfortable lead, 45-30, at the break.
It was a different story in the second half, as the Huskies clamped down on defense. The Wildcats misfired on 13 of their first 14 shots and went 7 for 28 after intermission and shot 36 percent overall.
As they’ve consistently done all season, the Huskies dominated under the basket. Clingan overpowered defenders and had 16 points on 7 for 7 from the field in the first 20 minutes. Spencer heated up from the outside, scoring eight quick points.
They seized control early on, riding a 16-0 run to a 24-8 lead. Clingan sparked the offense, scoring 10 of his team’s first 24 points.
UNH went cold, going seven minutes, 11 seconds without a field goal, and also turned the ball over in six straight possessions.
Behind Jaxson Baker’s four straight 3-pointers, UNH cut the deficit to 32-23. That’s as close as the Wildcats would get.
UConn was never threatened in the second half and led by as many as 28. Junior reserve Samson Johnson chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.
With the Huskies up by 27 at the 7:15 mark, fans started heading to the exits.
UConn was slapped with two technical fouls in the game – one on assistant coach Tom Moore and the other on Hurley.
“We have a lively bench,” Hurley said. “I guess there was too much enthusiasm, too much passion, too much energy.”
Solo Ball made his fifth straight start in the backcourt since fellow freshman Stephon Castle was sidelined with a knee injury.
Castle could return to the lineup as early as Friday’s game at Kansas.
“Right now, he’s crushing the bike,” Hurley said. “He’s going to get an NIL deal with Peloton or something. He did some shooting today. He’s making some progress. He’s got a doctor’s appointment maybe (Tuesday) to see if we can ramp up.”
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