NEW YORK – Tristen Newton loves the big stage.
Back at Madison Square Garden, where an apparent sold out crowd was largely filled with red Indiana apparel on Sunday afternoon, the fifth-year point guard who starred in last year’s national championship game took control of UConn’s offense. Leading the fifth-ranked Huskies to a 77-57 win over Indiana in the opening game of the Empire Classic, he had a game-high 23 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Cam Spencer, Newton’s running mate in the backcourt, added 18 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 2 of 4 from deep, and five rebounds.
As Donovan Clingan (seven points, nine rebounds) held his own in a physical battle against Kel’el Ware and Malik Reneau down low, Newton and Alex Karaban each finished the first half with 11 points. Reneau, the Indiana forward, made 6 of his 7 shots in the first half for a game-high 15 points, including a three-point play with five seconds left that cut UConn’s lead to 37-30 at halftime.
Solo Ball, in the starting lineup for the second straight game after the injury to Stephon Castle, scored his first points on a layup to break the seal in the second half and made a 3-pointer off Newton’s fourth assist of the game that put UConn up 44-30, its largest lead of the game to that point. Indiana responded with a 7-0 run, but a string of second-chance opportunities – and layups from Newton – helped the Huskies maintain a modest lead.
Reneau spent a good chunk of the second half on the Indiana bench after picking up his fourth foul, and fouled out around the seven-minute mark. UConn took advantage and went on a 10-0 scoring run over the next two minutes and change to extend its lead to 20.
Ball finished with nine points and Karaban had 13 with six rebounds.
The Huskies finished the game with a 44-22 advantage on the backboard and dominated the offensive glass, 15-4. Capitalizing on the extra possessions, UConn had 16 second-chance points to the Hoosiers’ zero.
UConn (4-0) will play the winner of Sunday’s 3:30 p.m. game between No. 19 Texas and Louisville for the Empire Classic title.