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Donovan Clingan, UConn Power Back Into Final Four Behind 30-0 Run in 77-52 Rout of Illinois

BOSTON (AP) — 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 on Saturday night.

It was a March Madness record 10th straight double-digit victory for the Huskies, who cruised to their fifth national title last year and seem inexorably headed for a sixth. Their NCAA Tournament wins this year have come by 39, 17, 30 and 25 points.

The top-seeded Huskies (35-3) will now get on an airplane for the first time in almost a month and head to the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona, where they will face the West Region champion, either Alabama or Clemson.

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.

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. Shannon, who scored 29 points in Thursday night’s Sweet 16 victory over Iowa State, snapped a string of 41 straight games scoring in double digits.

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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.

The Huskies have a school-record 35 wins this season.

The Huskies will face either fourth-seeded Alabama or sixth-seeded Clemson. Neither school has ever made the Final Four.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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