No. 1 UConn begins title defense by cruising past Stetson 91-52 in NCAA Tournament

UConn's Samson Johnson (35) and Jaylin Stewart (3) defend against Stetson's Treyton Thompson, top left, during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

UConn’s Samson Johnson (35) and Jaylin Stewart (3) defend against Stetson’s Treyton Thompson, top left, during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donovan Clingan scored 19 points and Cam Spencer added 15 as top-seeded UConn began defense of its national championship by cruising past 16th-seeded Stetson 91-52 Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The top-ranked Huskies (32-3) will face ninth-seeded Northwestern on Sunday in the second round of the East Region at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Stephan Swenson scored 20 points for the Hatters (22-13), the ASun champions who were making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They never had a chance against UConn, which scored the first eight points and went on to its most lopsided NCAA victory since beating Chattanooga by 56 in the first round of the 2009 tournament.

Less than a week after the Huskies won the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, they were back in New York City, a few subway stops south in Brooklyn.

As usual, their fans showed up in droves. They were loud early but ended up settling in for a relaxing couple of hours that probably felt more like a November nonconference game than the start of March Madness.

Clingan slammed home an alley-oop from Tristen Newton to make it 8-0 with 17:16 left in the first half.

Stephon Castle made a 3 to push the lead to 20 with 9:06 left, and it was up to 31 when the 7-foot-2 Clingan got free underneath for another easy layup with 5:00 left.

Newton’s straight-on 3 gave UConn 50 points with a little under two minutes left in the half.

Newton, a first-team All-American, finished with 13 points and eight assists.

At the half it was 52-19. The Huskies had shot 68.8%., committed only three turnovers and outrebounded the Hatters 18-11 for good measure.

Less than 20 seconds into the second half, Castle scored on a baseline drive and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to make it 55-19.

The Hatters picked it up the rest of the second half and the Huskies cooled off, but still UConn — the most efficient offensive team in the country — reached 90 points for the ninth time this season.

The Huskies have won seven straight NCAA Tournament games by double-digits after their dominant run to a title last year as a four seed.

MILESTONES

Stetson’s Jalen Blackmon, who scored 42 in the ASun title game against Austin Peay, became the program’s career leader with 744 points. He scored 14 against UConn. … The Huskies’ 32 victories are the second-most in program history behind the 2013-14 national championship team (33) and most under sixth-year coach Dan Hurley.

UP NEXT

The Huskies have never played Northwestern, and last played a Big Ten team in the NCAA Tournament in 2021, losing to Maryland in the first round.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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