Top-seeded UConn blows through another opponent, beating San Diego State 82-52 to reach Elite Eight

Thu, Mar 28, 2024
NCAAB News (AP)

Top-seeded UConn blows through another opponent, beating San Diego State 82-52 to reach Elite Eight

BOSTON (AP) - The rematch turned into another mismatch for UConn.

Stephon Castle had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the top-seeded Huskies and the defending NCAA champions advanced to the Elite Eight with another double-digit victory, beating San Diego State 82-52 on Thursday night in a rematch of last year's title game.

Cam Spencer scored 18 points and Tristen Newton added 17 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies (34-3), who will play the winner of the other East Region semifinal between No. 2 Iowa State and No. 3 Illinois for a spot in the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona.

A year after cruising to their fifth national championship - winning their six NCAA Tournament games by an average of almost 20 points - the Huskies followed up blowouts last weekend with their ninth straight double-digit March Madness victory.

They have won their games in this tournament by 39, 17 and 30 points.

"We suck at winning close games," UConn coach Dan Hurley said. "You've got to go with the alternative."

Backed by a virtual home crowd at TD Garden - Boston is about 90 miles from UConn's Storrs, Connecticut, campus - the Huskies made it a double-digit lead early in the second half, 20 with about seven minutes left and 30 in the final minutes, after the teams sent in their benches. Hurley's son Andrew even got into the game with 1:44 left, drawing a celebratory cheer.

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"We tried to make it like Storrs North," Castle said. "They showed up for us."

Seven-footer Donovan Clingan, who played just 23 minutes after getting into foul trouble, had eight points and eight rebounds.

Jaedon LeDee scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half for fifth-seeded San Diego State, which followed up the only Final Four appearance in school history with another Sweet 16 run.

But for the second straight year, the Aztecs (26-11) ran into UConn, which is now three victories away from becoming the first team to repeat as NCAA champions since Florida in 2006 and '07.

UConn took its first 10-point lead before the midpoint of a first half in which both teams went cold about 10 minutes in. After opening a 27-16 lead with 11 minutes left, UConn shot 6 for 28 to finish the half - and still took a nine-point lead into the break.

The Huskies went up by double digits for good in the opening minutes of the second half when Newton - thanks to an offensive rebound and assist from Clingan - hit a 3-pointer to make it 45-33. Up 17 with eight minutes left, UConn scored the next nine points to pull away.

UConn won last year's championship game 76-59 and also beat the Aztecs in the 2011 Sweet 16, with Kawhi Leonard's San Diego State team falling to Kemba Walker's Huskies, who went on to win the school's third national championship.

Last year, UConn made it five, pulling away after leading by five points with five minutes left to beat San Diego State 76-59.

UP NEXT

The Huskies reached the Elite Eight for the 13th time. The last time they made it this far and didn't win it all was in 2009, when Jim Calhoun's team lost to Michigan State in the national semifinal.

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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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