March Madness: UConn overwhelms SDSU on defense, glass in another dominant tournament effort

For a while, San Diego State's defense kept it close in Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup with UConn.

But the top-seeded Huskies — who can beat opponents in so many different ways — were ultimately too much en route to an 82-52 win. UConn dominated the glass and leaned on its own stingy defense to secure an overwhelming victory in a rematch of last season's national title game against the fifth-seeded Aztecs. UConn's All-Big East backcourt duo of Cam Spencer and Tristen Newton got the job done on offense alongside freshman standout Stephon Castle.

Jaedon LeDee kept SDSU afloat early with seven points in the game's first four minutes en route to a 15-point first half. He claimed nearly half of SDSU's points as UConn took a 40-31 edge into the break. But the Huskies held him scoreless for the first 7:36 of the second half as they extended their lead to double digits.

By that time, UConn led, 53-39. The Aztecs struggled to find a second scoring option, and the game was all but over. LeDee finished with 18 points.

Cam Spencer led UConn in scoring in another dominant NCAA tournament win. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Cam Spencer led UConn in scoring in another dominant NCAA tournament win. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Like last season's surprise national finalist, San Diego State got to the Sweet 16 thanks to a stingy defense that entered Thursday's game ranked 10th in the nation in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency. It flustered UConn early and held the Huskies to 39.5% shooting in the first half. But when it was done, UConn shot 46.2% for the game.

When UConn missed, SDSU couldn't clean the glass. The Huskies tallied 21 offensive rebounds on 35 missed shots. They secured a 50-28 rebounding edge in a dominant effort on the glass that ultimately determined the game's outcome.

And they made life hard on SDSU when the Aztecs had the ball. SDSU shot 36.2% from the field and 22.7% from 3-point distance against a UConn defense that ranks eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency. When UConn extended its lead to double digits, there was little hope for an SDSU rally.

On offense, UConn looked to its backcourt trio of Spencer, Newton and Castle. Spencer tallied 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. A transfer from Rutgers who didn't play on last year's national title team, Spencer's emerged as one of UConn's best players in 2024.

Castle, a potential lottery pick, finished with 16 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Newton tallied 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. UConn advances to Saturday to face the winner between No. 2 seed Iowa State and No. 3 seed Illinois in the East regional final.