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No. 20 UConn men’s basketball takes Phil Knight Invitational title with 71-53 win over Iowa State

The Huskies won the hardware with a great defensive and rebounding performance.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Two pieces of hardware are coming back to Storrs. After the women’s team won the Phil Knight Legacy on Sunday afternoon, No. 20 UConn men’s basketball took down Iowa State, 71-53, to win the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon.

The Huskies had a massive rebounding advantage, grabbing 48 boards, 21 of which were on the offensive glass. The Cyclones had a mere 19. Donovan Clingan (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Andre Jackson (10 points, 13 rebounds) each had a double-double as two of four UConn players to reach double figures. Clingan won MVP honors for his exploits, as he played just 18 minutes.

The first half was sloppy and chaotic, particularly at the beginning. The teams combined for seven turnovers in the game’s first four-and-a-half minutes, which was equal to the number of points scored.

While the turnovers were kept to a minimum, with just five over the remainder of the first 20 minutes, the play did not improve. UConn was just 10-29 from the field, including a paltry 3-15 from beyond the arc, while Iowa State was not much better, shooting 12-28. However, two key differences helped the Huskies to a 10-point halftime lead: fouls and rebounding.

Dan Hurley’s team was plus-16 rebounding in the first half, grabbing 14 offensive boards to just 11 total for the Cyclones. Clingan was a catalyst for this, with five rebounds in just six minutes. He entered with 13:18 remaining and after taking a couple of possessions to settle in, shined both offensively and defensively. He drew a trio of shooting fouls and hit four of his six free throws to finish with eight points. His performance permitted Hurley to keep Sanogo on the bench for six straight minutes, resting his star in the Huskies’ third game in four days.

Clingan wasn’t the only player that was frequently on the line. Six Huskies shot free throws in the first half and combined for a 15-20 performance. Iowa State committed 14 fouls to just seven for UConn, which led to a disparity of 17 chances from the charity stripe. The Cyclones are a physical team and struggled to adjust to the referees’ standards.

The second half had an inauspicious start, as Jordan Hawkins was whistled for his third personal foul and then was called for a technical foul just 17 seconds in. He would not return to the game and played just six minutes. Sanogo also was called for his third personal early and missed eight minutes, checking back in with 11:02 remaining.

After the fouls, the turnover bug started, as the Huskies coughed it up five times in the first five minutes of the first half. Iowa State is one of the best teams in the nation at forcing turnovers, with a 30.5 percent turnover rate headed into the game, which was good for second in the nation.

Still, despite the adversity faced by the Huskies, the Cyclones were never able to get within five as the UConn defense continued to dominate inside, holding Iowa State to 8-16 shooting on 2-pointers in the second half, which is below its season percentage of 53.7 percent.

Whenever the score got close, UConn was always able to answer back and keep its opponents at arm’s length, preventing too big of a scare. The final comeback attempt came as Jaren Holmes drilled a 3-pointer to shrink his team’s deficit to 53-48 with 9:47 remaining. Alex Karaban responded with a deep shot of his own to kickstart a quick 7-0 run, which returned the Husky advantage to 12 just 2:36 later. Iowa State was unable to get within single digits the rest of the night.

UConn (8-0) will play next at Gampel Pavilion against Oklahoma State on Thursday as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. on FS1.