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Takeaways after UConn’s win over Gonzaga: Donovan Clingan did that

The sophomore was they key to another big win for the Huskies over the Zags.

NCAA Basketball: Continental Tire Seattle Tip-Off-Connecticut at Gonzaga Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

UConn men’s basketball ended its nonconference schedule on a high note Friday night, beating down No. 10 Gonzaga 76-63 in what was essentially a road game against the Bulldogs in Seattle.

The victory was the Huskies’ second top-10 win in its last three games and puts UConn at 10-1 on the season. The Huskies are 27-1 in their last 28 games outside of the Big East, including last year’s NCAA tournament, and have won all of those games by more than 10 points.

Some thoughts after another dominant performance from Dan Hurley’s squad.

Clingan’s best game yet

The Bristol big man had 21 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks along with countless altered shots in the paint. The Huskies went to him early and often as he took advantage of a deep but undersized Zags frontcourt all night. Just when Gonzaga started to make things interesting and got within 10 late in the second half, Clingan threw down a lob from Hassan Diarra and put the Bulldogs away for good.

Clingan may have had a slightly underwhelming start to the season as he worked his way back from both an offseason injury and another injury suffered midseason. But make no mistake, he has still been excellent all season, especially on the defensive end. For him to have this kind of performance against a ranked opponent in a tough road contest shows what kind of team leader he’s ready to be.

Castle’s just getting started

For UConn to have looked this good without Stephon Castle fully healthy is just unfair. Before the season, a lot was expected of Castle, but he missed a handful of early games and is currently playing on a minutes restriction.

During that time, Tristen Newton has proven to be an All-American candidate and the emergence of Hassan Diarra off the bench has given Hurley the luxury of easing Castle back into the rotation.

Against Gonzaga, Castle was aggressive getting downhill and looking for layups or easy kickouts in 19 minutes, the most since coming back from his injury. A return to the starting five is likely imminent (along with more minutes) but for now, Hurley has the luxury of bringing him off the bench.

Hassan Diarra is a menace

Diarra has been such a spark plug off the bench all season and the Gonzaga game was no different. He has been so tenacious on defense, tipping passes, grabbing steals and making life miserable for whoever he is guarding. He was only credited for one steal against the Zags, but had multiple tips and deflections — including a bunch on one possession — that led to multiple turnovers. Offensively, he isn't asked to do much but can finish at the rim and find the open shooters on the perimeter.

Diarra was up and down last season and played sparingly during the tournament run, but has refined his game this season to be an important piece on both ends off the bench. His perimeter defense and tenacity will be a major asset in Big East play.