Despite being down three starters and playing 10 minutes of ugly basketball, the UConn men’s basketball team took down Buffalo 84-64 at the XL Center on Tuesday night. The 3-0 Huskies struggled to get going offensively but relied on Tristen Newton, who posted the 12th triple-double in program history, along with key bench minutes from Joey Calcaterra and Donovan Clingan to tame the Bulls.
Newton’s triple-double was the Huskies’ first triple double since Daniel Hamilton in 2015. The East Carolina transfer scored 22 points with 11 assists and 10 boards, sealing the deal with two rebounds in the game’s final five minutes. Despite shooting 4-14 from the field and 0-5 from three, Newton did most of his damage from the charity stripe, hitting 14-17 from the free throw line. Newton’s 14 made free throws were more than Buffalo attempted all night.
Entering the night, the Bulls were the highest-tempo team in the country per KenPom and stayed true to form early on. The faster pace forced the Huskies to play out of control at the start, as UConn trailed for the first time all season nine minutes into the game after a layup from Zid Powell gave Buffalo a 12-11 lead. With Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins and Samson Johnson all once again unavailable, the Huskies’ offense was all out of sorts in the game’s opening 10 minutes with a myriad of long twos, bad 3-point shots, and poor decisions in the fast break.
Calcaterra proved to be a stabilizing presence for the offense off the bench, scoring 10 of the Huskies’ next 20 points to help snap them out of their offensive funk. By the time Calcaterra hit his second three of the half, the Huskies had extended their lead to 39-24 with two minutes left in the half as the San Diego transfer served as a key cog in a 20-10 run. UConn kept the momentum rolling to finish the half and headed into the locker room with a 44-28 lead.
Shortly after halftime, Adama Sanogo picked up his third personal foul, opening the door for Clingan to play extended minutes. After struggling for short stretches in the first half, Clingan helped the Huskies pull away to open the final 20 minutes. The 7-footer filled up the stat sheet with five points, four rebounds and two emphatic blocks in the opening six minutes, including one swat that led to an easy three for Alex Karaban.
With Clingan on the floor, the Huskies jumped out to a 56-36 lead and pulled away from the Bulls for good. UConn stretched the lead to as many as 26 after a smooth euro step from Karaban with 10 minutes left, but the impact from Clingan in the second half and Calcaterra in the first was enough to keep the Huskies ahead for good.
Once the Huskies clearly pulled away in the second half, much of the focus shifted to Newton’s quest for a triple-double, which he sealed with a defensive rebound with 1:20 remaining.
Despite some second half foul trouble, Sanogo managed to reach double figures with 11 points and six boards in only 22 minutes. He joined Calcaterra as the only Huskies to hit a three in the first half as UConn went 3-16 from deep in the first 20 minutes. The Huskies finished the night 6-23 from downtown, with Calcaterra making three threes and Sanogo, Karaban and Nahiem Alleyne making one apiece.
UConn returns to action Friday night as they welcome UNC-Wilmington to Gampel Pavilion. Tip off is set for 8:30 p.m. ET, with FS2 set to broadcast the action.