No. 5 UConn outshoots, outmuscles No. 9 North Carolina in testy matchup of Final Four hopefuls

Tristen Newton, left, and the Huskies got the best of the Tar Heels at Madison Square Garden. (Brad Penner/Reuters)

In a raucous atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, No. 5 UConn outmuscled and outshot No. 9 North Carolina for an 87-76 win Tuesday in an early-season matchup of Final Four hopefuls.

UConn controlled the glass on both sides of the court to limit a Carolina offense that came into Monday's game averaging 86.3 points per game. It made the most of its possessions on a hot night from the floor that ensured there would be no North Carolina rally.

After using it to spark a 22-0 run in a win over Florida State on Saturday, UNC implemented full-court pressure late while trailing by double digits. But the Huskies repeatedly broke the press to keep the Tar Heels at bay.

UConn bounces back in 2nd straight top-10 matchup

It was a strong showing from the reigning national champions on the heels of a road loss to No. 5 Kansas on Friday. UConn lost three starters from last year's title team to the NBA but retooled and reloaded to build a team that looks equipped to make another deep run in March.

For North Carolina, the loss halted a three-game win streak that propelled it into the top 10 and included victories over No. 20 Arkansas and No. 10 Tennessee in a 100-point effort against one of the nation's best defenses. The Tar Heels will look to regroup ahead of another tough matchup against No. 16 Kentucky on Dec. 16.

Huskies still loaded despite losing 3 starters from title team

Senior sharpshooter Cam Spencer led the UConn effort on a hot night from the field while tallying 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists. He also traded technical fouls with North Carolina All-America hopeful Armando Bacot in a game that saw words exchanged on multiple occasions.

Spencer was one of six Huskies to secure four or more rebounds as UConn secured a 42-33 advantage on the glass. UConn shot 51.5% from the field to make the most of its possessions.

Sophomore forward Alex Karaban led UConn on the boards in a strong all-around effort while posting 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. Senior guard Tristen Newton added 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Sophomore 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan struggled with his shot and foul trouble in his matchup with Bacot in an eight-point, four-rebound effort. But it didn't matter much for a talented roster that was ready to pick up the slack.

Senior guard R.J. Davis had another strong effort for North Carolina, with 26 points, four assists and four rebounds while shooting 4-of-8 from 3-point distance. He threatened to spark a second-half UNC rally with a 7-2 run that cut UConn's lead to 65-60. But that was as close as North Carolina got after UConn rode an 8-0 run early in the second half to extend a three-point lead to 52-41.

Bacot posted 13 points and 13 rebounds, and Stanford transfer Harrison Ingram continued his strong play with his new team in a 20-point, five-rebound effort while shooting 8-of-13 from the field. Cormac Ryan, who has sparked the UNC offense as a transfer from Notre Dame, struggled with six points while missing all six of his 3-point attempts.