No. 1 UConn men’s basketball moved to 43-9 as the No. 1 team in the AP Poll with a dominant defensive performance over Creighton at Gampel Pavilion, earning a 62-48 win. It was the fewest points allowed by the Huskies in a Big East game since Dec. 17, 2022, when they gave up just 46 to Butler.
Dan Hurley’s team surrendered just 0.76 points per possession, forced 14 turnovers and the Bluejays shot just 18-for-52 from the floor. The Huskies also were able to do so without fouling, committing just 12 on the night, while securing 48 rebounds, 21 of which were on the offensive end, to Creighton’s 32.
Tristen Newton led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Cam Spencer (13 points) and Alex Karaban (13 points) joined him in double-figures.
Creighton is known for its defensive prowess, but both teams have a top-25 most-efficient offense according to KenPom, including two of the top three 2-point percentages. However, scoring was tough for both sides through much of the early going.
UConn especially was impressive. Creighton had just 0.65 points per possession in the first half, with eight turnovers and just three assists on nine field goals. The Bluejays shoot 61.4 percent from inside the arc and were just 7-for-15 on 2-pointers in the first half.
Creighton, meanwhile, was strong inside, forcing the Huskies to just 3-for-11 on layups and 13-for-37 overall in the initial 20 minutes. However, UConn won the rebound battle, 26-16, enabling the home side to take 10 extra shots, with 11 second-chance points.
Donovan Clingan made his return midway through the first half, playing for the first time since suffering a foot injury early in the second half on Dec. 20 against Seton Hall. It was clear the team missed its center over the past four weeks, as its defensive efficiency fell from the top five to No. 45 heading into the contest, and the game seemed to turn with his entrance at the 11:42 mark, with the game tied 12-12.
He got on the scoresheet only with an assist in his first burst, but the Bluejays were clearly worried about him on both the offensive and defensive end. In 15 minutes of play, Clingan had six points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Combined with a Newton 3-pointer the possession before he entered, UConn went on a 14-2 run while he was on the floor and he was a plus-nine in just 2:36 of action before Greg McDermott was forced to call a timeout with his team down nine.
A quick 5-0 burst took Creighton back to within four, forcing Dan Hurley to take a timeout of his own to settle down his team. It worked, as the Huskies held their foes at arm’s length through the rest of the half, going into the break with a 32-21 lead after holding the Bluejays to just 1-for-9 shooting over the final 6:55.
Trey Alexander scored the second half’s first points for Creighton, but the visitors still struggled to score, with a 2-for-13 shooting start, going 8:47 between field goals. UConn still wasn’t shooting the lights out, but five offensive rebounds and zero turnovers helped slowly push out the lead, which reached 22 with 7:23 remaining. Karaban was one of the catalysts, scoring all of his points in the second half on 5-for-6 shooting.
Steven Ashworth hit a 3-pointer with 7:14 to go that set off a long 16-4 run by the Bluejays, as they had a 6-for-8 streak. With 2:33 to go, Baylor Scheierman knocked down a triple and the lead was down to 10. However, Spencer was able to score a lay-up with 1:47 remaining on a cut, with Karaban setting him up, stopping the run and settling the game.
The Huskies (16-2, 6-1 Big East) will be back in action on Saturday against Villanova. Tip-off inside Wells Fargo Center is at 8 p.m. with coverage on FS1.