No. 4 UConn men’s basketball picked up where it left off last year, dispatching the DePaul Blue Demons, 85-56, at Gampel Pavilion.
The Huskies improve to 12-2 on the season and 2-1 in the Big East. Despite DePaul taking a brief early lead and Tristen Newton battling foul trouble, the Huskies gathered themselves, shook off the 10-day rust, and cruised.
Cam Spencer led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting for his third 20-point game of the season. Alex Karaban got back on track with 17 points, going 3-of4- from three. Freshman Stephon Castle starred in a leading role with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting with seven assists and four rebounds. He was one of three Huskies with five or more assists.
Neither team covered themselves in glory early on, with a grand total of four points in the first five minutes. At the under-12 timeout, Hurley preached more physicality on offense and setting picks lower, as DePaul was cheating on the high side. DePaul flashed some zone and Newton picked up two cheap fouls, but a small ball lineup with Karaban at the five finally gave the Huskies some separation.
After a 14-2 run featuring a Steph Castle alley-oop (with a foul), order was restored to the basketball universe.
STEPH THROWS DOWN THE AND-ONE‼️ pic.twitter.com/O9xuOa4qhE— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) January 3, 2024
UConn finished the half on a 28-8 run, spearheaded by the small ball lineup of Castle, Karaban, Solomon Ball, and Hassan Diarra.
The lead quickly stretched to 20 thanks to Tristen Newton and Samson Johnson —both sitting much of the first half with foul trouble — connecting on lobs. Newton matched Castle’s team-high with seven assists. The Huskies were in cruise control from there, with Castle, Spencer, and Johnson getting it done on both ends. Ball and Diarra offered solid bench production with eight points from Ball and 14 from Diarra along with five assists.
Look, DePaul is not a good team. It’s ranked 239 in KenPom, two of its wins are against sub-300 competition (No. 300 South Dakota, No. 310 Chicago State), and the third is vs. a historically embarrassing Louisville squad.
Playing without Donovan Clingan, the Huskies had to rebound, avoid fouls, and force turnovers. They did just that, winning the rebounding, turnover, and foul margins. But without Clingan, the nation’s second-most impactful player per Evan Miya’s BPM rating, it was good to see no second-half lapse as UConn comfortably covered the spread.
Next up for the Huskies is a two-game trek to the Midwest, where they’ll first take on a spunky Butler team on Friday, at 6:30 ET. They then face Xavier in Cincinnati on Wednesday, Jan. 10. Both games will be televised on FS1.