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Top regular season moments from UConn’s 2023 national championship run

It wasn’t always a smooth ride, but this team flashed its title potential throughout the season.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn cut down the nets in Houston as national champions Monday night, capping off a dominant tournament run with a 76-59 win over San Diego State. With the program’s fifth national title secured and the season now complete, we decided to take a look back at some of our favorite moments from the regular season. Be sure to post your own in the comments below!

The Marquette Game

Dan Madigan: To me, there is no better game where UConn showed their championship potential than the home win over then-No. 10 Marquette at the XL Center in Hartford. The Huskies put five players in double figures, outrebounded the Golden Eagles 48-24 and shot over 50 percent from 3-point range as they blew out arguably the best team in the Big East at the time. They stretched their lead to 20 points multiple times and led wire to wire, handling Marquette with ease.

Tristen Newton made history with his second triple-double of the season, and Alex Karaban, after being torched by Marquette on defense in the first meeting, held his own on that end. Even though it was a home game, beating a team that good — Marquette was No. 8 in KenPom at the time — by that much is not normal.

Donovan Clingan at the Phil Knight Invitational

Patrick Martin: Donovan Clingan looked great against the soft underbelly of UConn’s non-conference schedule, as most seven-footers should. But fans weren’t really sure what to expect from their prodigal son heading into the Phil Knight Invitational.

He left Oregon with the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award and the whole bunch of many ‘holy shit’ moments. In one preseason, the chunky kid feasting on Connecticut high school kids had transformed into a behemoth with foot speed, athleticism, and a feel for his position.

The Iowa State game — a 15-point, 10-rebound masterclass in just 18 minutes — put the whole country on notice. Not only does UConn have Adama Sanogo, but they trot out an entirely different — but equally as effective — big man off the bench?

The trajectory of both UConn’s and Clingan’s seasons changed after that tournament. He came in advertised as an obscenely tall project with size, a potential savior down the road that after some seasoning, could maybe bring a title home to Storrs at some point in a four-year career.

Instead, he’s an NCAA champion after one of the most efficiently dominant seasons as a backup ever, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he enters and stays in the draft this year.

Ryan Goodman: Honorable mention is Clingan toying with the Florida fans and doing the gator chomp in Gainesville when UConn was blowing out Florida. Some people might think this is annoying but he absolutely dominated that game in less than 20 minutes of play. Let him have his fun.

Andre Jackson’s pass to Alex Karaban against Georgetown

Shawn McGrath: UConn was mired in a 3-6 stretch headed into a road battle against Georgetown. The Huskies had coughed up a 14-point halftime lead to Seton Hall and lost by double digits to both St. John’s at home and Providence on the road.

Dan Hurley and company then rolled into Washington D.C. to face the lowly Hoyas and struggled all afternoon. It was a slow, ugly game, with only 59 possessions and the hosts were within a possession late into the second half. Inside of one minute to go, UConn’s lead was just three points and Tristen Newton had a lay-up blocked. Andre Jackson grabbed the rebound and threw a wild pass through the lane over his shoulder to Alex Karaban on the left wing. The ball was right on the money and the redshirt freshman drilled the 3-pointer to put his team up six with the shot clock off and stop the bleeding.

UConn had beat DePaul on the road prior to this game, but losing on the road to Georgetown, which was just 6-17 at the time, would have been a big step back. This took incredible skill, guts and floor vision by Jackson to make that pass and do so accurately, while Karaban played to his strengths and knocked down the shot to all but clinch the game. It helped the Huskies get their swagger back, as they demolished a top-10 Marquette team the next time out and lost just twice the rest of the year.

Tristen Newton’s five 3-pointers in the first half against Oregon at the Phil Knight Invitational

Ryan Goodman: Newton had already had a 20-point triple-double earlier in the season so we knew he was capable, but this is the first time he showed off his deep range against a high-major team. Leading up to this game, UConn had been dominating its opponents inside on the backs of Sanogo, Clingan and Karaban, which is expected when playing smaller and inferior teams, but this game was the first time that the UConn shooters flashed their elite potential. Newton was 5-6 from outside in the first half, which helped jumpstart a monsoon of long-range bombs that ended in a program record for 3-pointers made in a game, with 17.

Jackson’s SportsCenter No. 1 play in late December

Goodman: Yes this was against LIU, which was the worst-ranked team in KenPom this year. There are few players anywhere else in the country that can make a play like this look so effortless. It’s simply comical what Jackson does to the Sharks here. From the anticipation on the steal to the spin-dribble and behind-the-back move into an easy two-handed slam? Fuhhhgettaboutit. After this happened and popped up on SportsCenter, some UConn fans online sort of shrugging this off like, “Yeah, it’s Andre. He does that sort of thing,” - which just speaks to his greatness.