NEW YORK — The UConn men’s basketball team has its first chance to win a trophy during the 2023-24 season.
After beating Indiana handily, 77-57, in Saturday’s Empire Classic semifinal, head coach Dan Hurley and assistant Luke Murray sat in the Madison Square Garden media section to watch No. 19 Texas versus Louisville, preparing to play the winner in Monday’s title game.
The game, to the surprise of many, was close throughout. Louisville, 1-2 and ranked No. 170 in the nation by KenPom metrics entering Sunday, was a 19-point underdog against 3-0 Texas but, as the Longhorns shot 2 of 17 from 3-point range, kept the game close throughout. The Cardinals had an 80-79 lead until Texas forced a shot clock violation with seven seconds left in the game, allowing guard Max Abmas to pull up and shoot a midrange jumper that beat the buzzer and won the game for the Longhorns, 81-80.
Abmas will be one of the main focal points for Hurley and the Huskies, who used a combined 41 points from guards Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer to beat Indiana. The 6-foot senior, who was tied for the team’s lead in scoring (14.7 points per game) with 6-foot-5 guard Ithiel Horton through the Longhorns’ first three games, made 6 of his 19 shots Sunday and was 2 of 10 from beyond the arc.
Texas relied on a monster performance from 6-foot-11 senior Kadin Shedrick, who finished with 27 points and seven rebounds as both of Louisville’s big men dealt with foul trouble.
UConn, of course, will counter with Donovan Clingan and Samson Johnson down low as it looks to win an in-season tournament for the second straight year. The Huskies credit last year’s Phil Knight Invitational championship as one of the main momentum builders before the national championship run.
What to know
Site: Madison Square Garden, New York
Time: 7 p.m.
Series history: UConn leads, 6-3
Last meeting: Dec. 29, 2015 – UConn 71, Texas 66
Streaming: ESPN.com or ESPN app
Radio: UConn Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN – Mike Crispino, Wayne Norman