No. 5 UConn men’s basketball beat the No. 10 Gonzaga Bulldogs at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, 76-63.
The Huskies (10-1) led from wire to wire and never let the Zags get within single digits for the entire second half. Despite losing the rebounding battle for the first time this season, the Huskies were able to secure the victory on the back of their star big man Donovan Clingan, who led all scorers with 21 points and eight rebounds on 8-11 shooting. Cam Spencer (15 points, 3-6 3PT) and Alex Karaban (11 points) were the only other Huskies to hit double figures but 17 bench points — lead by Hasan Diarra’s nine — kept the Huskies in the driver’s seat.
The Huskies started the game feeding the aforementioned Clingan, who was 4-5 in the first four minutes. Hurley clearly wanted to exploit the size advantage that his sophomore big man held in the paint, which was working to perfection early on. Gonzaga punched back with their transfer point guard from Creighton Ryan Nembhard, who scored the first six points for the Zags.
Donovan starting off strong with 8 points pic.twitter.com/lHp8HCzljf— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) December 16, 2023
The two teams traded blows throughout the first 10 minutes with UConn leading but unable to pull away. Cam Spencer was able to open things up by nailing two threes in under a minute to give UConn an eight point lead with 5:44 remaining. Gonzaga scored a couple buckets but UConn always had an answer highlighted by another Spencer three and a beautiful euro step on a fast break by Stephon Castle for two. Shooting 7-9 from downtown helped the Huskies take an 11 point lead to the half.
UConn came out of the half on a 7-2 run thanks to a quick five points from Clingan and a Tristen Newton jumper. Graham Ike, the Zags’ leading scorer at over 14 points per game, finally got on the board after this spurt but was only able to hit one other shot the rest of the game, He finished with only five points on 2-5 shooting with Clingan allowing him no room to operate down low.
A putrid 2-12 shooting night from beyond the arc for the Zags prevented any serious comeback attempt and helped UConn grow their lead to 18 in the second half. The Huskies excelled at shutting down a lot first looks on offense for Mark Few’s squad, who had to rely on a lot of individual isolation scoring from Nembhard and Watson to barely stay afloat.
After a hot shooting first half, the Huskies went 0-8 from downtown in the second which allowed the Zags to gain some momentum around the four minute mark. Two Nolan Hickman free throws cut the lead to 10, and the crowd jumped to their feet and implored the Zags to get back within single digits. UConn immediately responded with a lob to Clingan on the other end and a breakaway layup from Diarra after a defensive stop to get the lead back to 14 with three minutes left. That sequence was effectively the nail in the coffin and allowed UConn to cruise to a comfortable victory.
DEFENSE LEADING TO OFFENSE pic.twitter.com/NORgxtGwPm— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) December 16, 2023
The Huskies are off until next Wednesday when they begin conference play at Seton Hall. That game will tip at 6:00 p.m. ET and air on CBS Sports Network.