No. 3 UConn wins first outright Big East regular-season title in 25 years


 No. 3 UConn is the defending men’s national champion. However, the Huskies had not won even a share of the Big East regular-season title in 18 years.

Donovan Clingan scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead a balanced attack and Connecticut clinched its first outright Big East championship in 25 years Sunday with a 91-61 rout of Seton Hall.

The team considered the achievement big enough to cut down the nets at Gampel Pavilion after the game.

“The hardest thing to do is to be excellent over the course of three, four months in a brutal, hard league,” coach Dan Hurley said.

Freshman Stephon Castle tied a career high with 21 points and Tristen Newton had 17 points and 10 assists for the Huskies (26-3, 16-2 Big East), who finished this season undefeated at home (16-0). Alex Karaban added 13 points.

Dre Davis had 20 points and Kadary Richmond scored 15 to lead Seton Hall (18-11, 11-7), which remains in fourth place in the Big East with the loss, a game ahead of Villanova.

UConn, which lost at Seton Hall by 15 points in December, shot 56% from the floor, outscored the Pirates 52-30 in the paint, outrebounded them 38-26 and scored 24 points off 11 Seton Hall turnovers.

“I feel like our defense really went to the next level,” said Clingan, who missed five games after suffering a right foot injury during the loss in New Jersey.

“Coach has really emphasized just trying to work on our defense, just trying to really guard the ball at a high level, rebound the ball at a high level.”

Davis had 12 points in the first 10 minutes and 16 points in the first half for Seton Hall. His 3-point play on a layup sparked a 7-0 run that gave the Pirates an 18-14 lead.

But UConn responded with a 15-2 run, highlighted by a steal and one of several highlight-reel dunks from Castle.

A floater in the lane from Karaban put the Huskies up by 15 points at intermission and the Huskies outscored Seton Hall 47-32 in the second half.

BIG PICTURE

Seton Hall: The Pirates were picked to finish ninth in the conference’s preseason poll and remain on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament berth. Coach Shaheen Holloway did not speak with reporters or make his players available after the game.

UConn: The Huskies previously won all of their regular-season home games back in 2005-06, when they finished 16-0 in the league. That was the same season the program won a share of its most recent Big East regular-season title.

“We feel it’s harder to win the Big East than the national championship,” Newton said.

CELEBRATIONS

The Huskies honored Newton, Cam Spencer, Hassan Diarra and Andrew Hurley in Senior Day ceremonies. It’s also possible that several underclassmen were playing their final home games. Clingan, Karaban and Castle are all considered draft prospects.

PLAY OF THE GAME

A behind-the-back dribble, crossover move and dunk by Castle put the Huskies up 74-51.

“I’m just out there having fun,” he said.

UP NEXT

Seton Hall: The Pirates have two home games remaining, beginning with Villanova on Wednesday before closing the season against DePaul next Saturday.

UConn: The Huskies visit Marquette on Wednesday and close the season next Saturday in Providence.

Reported by The Associated Press.



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