No. 6 UConn men cruise past Stonehill, 107-67, in Hartford opener

HARTFORD – The UConn men’s basketball team had all five starters in double-digits as it eased past Stonehill, 107-67, in the Hartford-opener on Saturday afternoon.

Unveiling the national championship banner in the rafters of the XL Center prior to the game, the Huskies got going quickly and ran up the score early against the undersized Stonehill defense.

Donovan Clingan, 7-foot-2 and six inches taller than the Skyhawks’ tallest player, dominated the backboard early and was able to finish at the rim with ease. Meanwhile, Tristen Newton was burying 3-pointers – he made three of his first four and had nine points in the first four minutes of the game, combining with Clingan to score the Huskies’ first 15.

Newton finished with 22 points to lead all scorers in addition to his six rebounds and four assists while Clingan had 16 with seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal. On his 21st birthday, Alex Karaban had 15 points and seven rebounds, two blocks and two steals. Freshman Stephon Castle received an ovation as he went to the bench with 17 points (5 of 7) plus eight rebounds, five assists, a block and a pair of steals. And Cam Spencer, despite a slow shooting night (3 for 11 from the field, 2 for 10 from 3-point range), finished with 12 points, five rebounds, six assists and a block.

Stonehill shot 13 for 31 (33%) from the field in the first half as Jackson Benigni, a senior guard from East Hampton who played at Xavier High, led the way for the Skyhawks with 12 points (5 for 8) in the opening period.

Samson Johnson’s first points of the game came on the end of an electric sequence which highlighted the athleticism that Hurley has raved about since Johnson’s arrival and fans are now finally able to see in extended minutes. In a 10-second span, Johnson sprinted to one end of the court for a chase down block, then turned around and sprinted back the other way where he had a clear path to the rim. Hassan Diarra found him before any Skyhawks could get in the way and Johnson slammed it in with two hands for his sixth dunk of the season.

He dunked twice more before finishing a driving layup on an inbounds play – his first field goal of the season that wasn’t a dunk – and finished with eight points.

UConn opened the second half on a 26-4 run that pushed the lead out to as many as 44 points with under 13 minutes to go. The Huskies dominated the backboard, out rebounding Stonehill 40-25, and had seven blocks to the Skyhawks’ one. Stonehill finished the game 25 of 59 (42.4%) from the field and Benigni left with a career-high 22 points (9 of 14).

The Huskies (2-0) will look to extend the nonconference winning streak to 20 games against Mississippi Valley State at the XL Center on Tuesday, their last game before meeting Indiana at Madison Square Garden for the Empire Classic Nov. 19.