June 25, 2024

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UConn wins its eighth Big East tournament title, first since 2011

UConn wins its eighth Big East tournament title, first since 2011

NEW YORK — Donovan Clingan scored 22 points and No. 2 Jaylen Stewart gave No. 2 UConn an unexpected boost with three second-half 3-pointers during a crucial run as the top-seeded Huskies beat No. 10 Marquette 73-57 on Saturday night to win their first Big East championship in 13 years. .

Tournament MVP Tristen Newton added 13 points and 10 assists as the top-seeded Huskies won their eighth title, matching Georgetown for the most in conference history. It was the first time since 2011, when Kemba Walker led UConn to five wins in five days at Madison Square Garden — and then the national title.

Stewart, a freshman who averaged 2.4 points off the bench, scored nine points in about four minutes as UConn (31-3) pulled away a stout Marquette team that played without injured star Tyler Kulek (oblique) for the sixth straight game.

Cam Jones led the third-seeded Golden Eagles (25-9), the defending champion, with 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

On a night when the Huskies struggled from the perimeter, they relied on the 7-foot-2 Klingan inside. He was 7 for 12 from the field, and as the final seconds ticked off the clock, the sophomore big man waved to excited Huskies fans packed into the downtown Manhattan arena they like to call “Storrs South.”

Two years after UConn captured its last Big East championship title, the conference disbanded and the Huskies went with the football schools to form the American Athletic Conference, where they won another national championship in 2014 — and then fell.

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UConn returned to the Big East in 2020-21 and to national prominence. The Huskies won their fifth NCAA title last year, but a conference tournament championship eluded coach Dan Hurley's team. UConn hadn't even reached a Saturday night final in its first three seasons in the Big East.

For Hurley, a New Jersey native and former Seton Hall guard, bringing this award back to UConn was a big deal.

Hurley spoke about everything his team accomplished last year when he received the trophy on Saturday night and told the crowd: “But we're not finished yet.”

UConn improved to 8-3 in the Big East Finals and 7-0 at MSG this season.

As usual, UConn fans packed the Garden, and for the second night in a row, Marquette faced a road game. The Golden Eagles overcame a raucous Providence crowd in a bumpy semifinal game Friday night.

They couldn't do it again against the powerful Huskies.

“Today was definitely tough, but we have a great team, a great seed and that's all you need is a shot at the tournament,” said David Joplin, who had 12 points and six rebounds in the Golden Eagles' lowest-scoring game. season by 12 points.

Two of the best teams in the country played some of the ugliest nine minutes of basketball imaginable to start the game.

At the second media timeout, the score was tied at 4, and the Golden Eagles and Huskies were a combined 3-for-22 from the floor. The defense was aggressive and physical, but it was also difficult to track the number of shots close to the rim.

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Things got better from there, and Newton hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first half to give UConn a 26-24 halftime lead.

The shots started falling in the second half for both teams, and UConn began to assert itself with about 10 minutes left in the game with Stewart leading the charge.

The Huskies went on a 19-5 run and took a 60-44 lead with 5:52 remaining when Hassan Diarra made a layup 3. Stewart controlled the surge with his long-range shooting. He entered the game shooting just 6-of-30 from 3-point range on the season.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.