Connecticut 77, Illinois 52

Connecticut 77, Illinois 52


BOSTON — Defending national champion UConn powered its way back into the Final Four behind a 30-0 run led by Donovan Clingan, who finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Huskies crushed Illinois 77-52.

Marcus Domask scored 17 points — 15 in the first half — for Illinois (29-9), and star Terrence Shannon Jr. was held to eight points on 2-of-12 shooting.

Cam Spencer had 11 points and 12 rebounds, Hassan Diarra scored 11 and Alex Karaban had 10 points for UConn.

But the big problem for third-seeded Illinois was the 7-foot-2 Clingan.

The Fighting Illini (29-9) managed just four points in the first half when Clingan was in the game, with the Connecticut native recording nine points, six rebounds and three blocked shots before the break.

UConn led just 28-23 at the half, but then things really fell apart for the Illini. They missed their first 14 shots of the second — 17 misses in a row, in all — as the Huskies scored the first 25 points of the period. The 30-0 UConn run lasted for the last 1:49 of the first half and the first 7:19 of the second.

By the time Clingan took a break with 14:35 to play, the Huskies led by 23. On the next Illinois possession, Samson Johnson — who subbed in for Clingan — blocked Shannon under the basket and finished the fast break at the other end with a layup that gave UConn a 48-23 lead.

It was a March Madness record 10th straight double-digit victory for the top-seeded Huskies (35-3).

They are the first defending champions to make it back to the national semifinals since Florida won back-to-back titles in 2006 and ’07.

That’s still a possibility for the Huskies, too.

Connecticut athletics press release

March 30, 2024