AP Sports

Top-ranked UConn uses a balanced attack, routs No. 4 Marquette to take control of the Big East

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — UConn is the No.1 team in the nation and the defending national champions, yet the Huskies went into Saturday’s matchup with No. 4 Marquette coveting something the Golden Eagles won a year ago: a Big East championship.

Donovan Clingan had 17 points and 10 rebounds to help the Huskies to an 81-53 rout of Marquette and control of the conference race.

“We were just trying to prove who we are, and we’re just trying to win,” Clingan said.

Tristen Newton added 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists for the Huskies (24-2, 14-1), who have won 14 straight games. Cam Spencer and Hassan Diarra each added 14 points.

Kam Jones scored 15 points and Oso Ighodaro had 14 for Marquette (19-6, 10-4), which came into the game with an eight-game winning streak.

The Huskies now lead the second-place Golden Eagles in the Big East by three games in the loss column with five to play.

The Huskies led by 16 points after a strong defensive first half and 18 after a put-back by Newton to open the second half.

They took a 21-point lead at 51-30 after an offensive rebound by Newton, who fed Clingan for an emphatic dunk through the lane. UConn built its lead to as many as 29 points in the second half.

“You play elite offense, you play elite defense and you’re a great rebounding team and you play harder than the opponent, it doesn’t give them a lot of places to go,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.

The game was tied at 18 before UConn took control. The Huskies held Marquette without a field goal for almost four minutes, went on a 13-0 run late in the half and went into the break leading 42-26.

The teams will meet again on March 6 in Milwaukee.

“What we need to do better the next time we play UConn? It’s like Santa Claus’ list that unfolds,” Marquette coach Shaka Smart said. “But I think starting with that we have to play with more of a level of violence and toughness about us. They had that edge today.”

BIG PICTURE

Marquette: The Golden Eagles came in shooting 53.6% from the floor during their winning streak and 42.5% from 3-point range. They were held to 37% Saturday and made just 5 of 23 shots from behind the arc.

UConn: The Huskies are looking for their first regular-season Big East title since 2005-06, a year they shared the crown with Villanova.

KEY STAT

Marquette outrebounded UConn 7-3 over the first five minutes, leading to some harsh words from Hurley during a timeout. The Huskies ended up winning the battle of the boards 45-27, including 18-10 on the offensive end.

PLENTY OF OPTIONS

Marquette held two of UConn’s top scorer’s, Alex Karaban and Stephon Castle, to a combined 3 of 16 from the field and 10 total points. But Diarra and Samson Johnson came off the bench to go 7 of 13 from the floor. Diarra also did a lot of the work defensively on Marquette star Tyler Kolek, who was held to just two baskets on 11 shots.

STREAKING

The Huskies are now 39-4 since losing at home to Xavier on Jan. 25 of last year.

“I think what’s dangerous about how I think we feel as a program right now is that we take the court and we don’t fear losing,” Hurley said.

UP NEXT:

Marquette: Open a three-game homestand against Big East cellar-dweller DePaul on Wednesday.

UConn: Heads to Nebraska to face the Big East’s other ranked team, No. 17 Creighton on Tuesday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball

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