Top seed UConn steamrolls into Sweet 16 with 75-58 win over Northwestern in East Region


NEW YORK — Donovan Clingan, Tristen Newton and top overall seed UConn overwhelmed an undermanned Northwestern team 75-58 on Sunday night to sail into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Newton had 20 points and 10 assists, and Clingan finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks. The Huskies (33-3) led wire-to-wire and became the first defending national champions to reach the regional semifinals since Duke in 2016.

Connecticut built a 30-point cushion with 13:27 left and matched a program record for wins set by the 2013-14 national title squad. It will play Thursday night in the East Region semifinals against No. 5 seed San Diego State or 13th-seeded Yale in Boston, about an 85-mile drive from UConn’s campus.

The Huskies beat a fifth-seeded San Diego State squad 76-59 in last year’s national championship game. They lost Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. to the NBA from that talented team, but this balanced and focused group has looked even more dominant as it attempts to become the first program to repeat as NCAA champion since Florida in 2007.

Yale, the Huskies’ in-state neighbor located about 60 miles south, won the most recent matchup between the schools, 45-44 at Storrs in December 2014 — against a UConn team coming off a national title the previous season.

Sound familiar?

Undersized and overmatched, Boo Buie and the ninth-seeded Wildcats (22-12) were buried under a dizzying display of dunks, blocks, alley-oops and layups.

They made a late push that prompted Huskies coach Dan Hurley to call a timeout with 5:26 remaining, but Northwestern never got the margin under 16.

Brooks Barnhizer scored all 18 of his points in the second half for Northwestern, which has advanced a round in each of its three NCAA Tournament appearances (all since 2017). But the Big Ten program has never reached the Sweet 16.

UConn’s victory put all three Big East teams that made the NCAA Tournament in the regional semifinals, following hard-fought wins by Creighton and Marquette in the second round against Pac-12 programs.

The streaking Huskies had no such trouble, winning their eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament game by double digits. The record is nine, set by Michigan State from 2000-01.

Minus two injured starters, junior guard Ty Berry and 7-foot senior center Matthew Nicholson, the Wildcats had no answer for the 7-2 Clingan. He had a double-double less than 16 minutes into the game and blocked consecutive shots in a span of four seconds during one first-half sequence.

Seeking its sixth national title, all in the past quarter-century, UConn rolled into the Sweet 16 for the 19th time. It was the second blowout of the night in Brooklyn, following Duke’s 93-55 dismantling of James Madison in the South Region.

After throttling No. 16 seed Stetson 91-52 in the first round Friday, the Huskies have now won 39 of their last 42 games dating to last season’s NCAA Tournament.

The initial meeting between the schools was a mismatch from the start. UConn scored the first seven points and opened an 18-4 bulge eight minutes into the game.

By then, the Huskies had already outscored Northwestern 16-2 in the paint and 8-0 on fast breaks as chants of “U-C-O-N-N, UConn! UConn! UConn!” echoed throughout Barclays Center.

On the defensive end, Big East Freshman of the Year Stephon Castle and Sixth Man Award winner Hassan Diarra clamped down on Buie, the leading scorer in Northwestern history.

The star guard, who entered averaging 19.3 points per game, didn’t score until sinking two free throws with 1:22 left in the first half that trimmed the deficit to 20. He and Barnhizer, the team’s second-leading scorer, were a combined 0 of 14 from the field in the opening 20 minutes as UConn went into the break leading 40-18.

The Wildcats were held to a season low in first-half points for the second consecutive game. Connecticut also set a season best for points allowed in the first half for the second straight game.

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UConn also played San Diego State in the 2011 Sweet 16, beating Kawhi Leonard and the second-seeded Aztecs 74-67 behind 36 points from Kemba Walker on the way to a national championship.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness



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