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Stephon Castle cleared to return, but new injuries emerge for UConn men’s basketball

The Huskies have a few players that will be game-time decisions on Tuesday night.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s basketball piled up a few minor injuries after Friday night’s bout with Kansas.

While Stephon Castle is expected to return, according to head coach Dan Hurley, three other Huskies are game-time decisions for Tuesday night’s matchup against No. 9 North Carolina at Madison Square Garden.

Cam Spencer was the first Husky to look noticeably dinged up, tweaking his right foot early in the first half in Lawrence. Hurley shared that the grad transfer came into the game with a left foot injury before injuring his right big toe on Friday night.

Sophomores Donovan Clingan and Alex Karaban are also on the mend.

“Donovan has been limited with the toe. Alex has been limited with a finger. Heck of a physical game on Friday night,” head coach Dan Hurley said.

Hurley told reporters he will have to see what the injured trio looks like before making a call on whether they suit up Tuesday night against the Tar Heels.

“It’s going to take a lot for them not to give it a go, but I want to see what they look like tomorrow,” Hurley said. “It’s a long season and this is not the type of an opponent you want to play if you can't run at full speed.”

The injuries seem to have affected Spencer and Karaban the most in that loss at Allen Fieldhouse. Spencer, who entered the game shooting nearly 47 percent from three, was just 1-7 from beyond the arc and 1-3 from the free throw line. Karaban disappeared for stretches and fouled out in the game’s final minutes.

Almost 11 months to the day after hitting a game-winning three to lift Rutgers over then-No. 1 Purdue at Mackey Arena, Spencer had an opportunity to be the hero yet again against KU. This time, his 3-point attempt from the extended wing to win the game was just short, ending the Huskies’ comeback bid. Hurley felt good about the look the team got to win the game in a tough road environment, but sometimes shots just don't fall.

“Cam is a clutch shooter,” Hurley said. “He’s one of the best shooters in the country. He got a really good look at a three to win the game at the horn.”

As for Karaban, the sophomore has struggled as of late but is still showing flashes of the breakout he had at the very beginning of the season. He hit two big buckets late in the second half to keep UConn in it with KU and added six rebounds, helping Clingan handle Hunter Dickinson on the glass. As long as the sophomore continues to be active on both ends, he will continue to be a crucial piece for the Huskies.

“Cut more, get on the offensive glass,” Hurley said. “Make a play defensively to get himself going... He’s probably the last guy on the roster I’m worried about right now.”

Despite these injury woes and slumps, Stephon Castle is coming back.

“Steph looks good, just need to make sure he is feeling good after back-to-back days of live reps. He will have a minutes restriction after missing so much time,” Hurley said.

Castle’s return, albeit a limited one, is a major boon for this banged-up Huskies team. In 43 total minutes this season, Castle has 29 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. He remains a top NBA prospect and should impact the game on both ends, even against elite competition like the Tar Heels.

“It’s a tough first one to come back for but I know he would like to be out there,” Hurley said.

Tuesday night’s 9 p.m. tip with UNC is part of the Jimmy V Classic. After that, the Huskies take on Arkansas Pine Bluff (No. 346 out of 363 in KenPom) and then hit the road to Seattle where they’ll have an Elite Eight re-match with No. 7 Gonzaga on Dec. 15.