No. 5 UConn pulls away late to close out No. 9 North Carolina
NEW YORK (AP) — Cam Spencer had 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists as fifth-ranked UConn pulled away down the stretch for an 87-76 victory over No. 9 North Carolina in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday night.
Playing their third game at Madison Square Garden this season, the Huskies (8-1) rebounded from a four-point loss at then-No. 5 Kansas last Friday. The defending NCAA champions won a game in this event for the first time in five tries.
“We just got absolutely everything out of what we wanted when we put this on the schedule,” Huskies coach Dan Hurley said. “The atmosphere is awesome. The opponent is probably one of the best teams in the country, and it was such a great test coming off the disappointment of the Kansas loss on the road. Just to put that kind of impressive performance — it speaks to the group we have this year.”
Spencer shot 8 of 14 overall and scored 16 points in the first half, when the Huskies took the lead for good. He finished with his second-highest point total this season after shooting 2 of 12 at Kansas when he tweaked his foot in the first half.
“I definitely came in with a lot of motivation and anger to just help the team in any way that I could,” Spencer said. “I thought we just raised our intensity level from that Kansas game with a lot of little things. So I’m just really proud of the team, and everybody showed up today.”
Alex Karaban added 14 of his 18 points in the second period and finished with nine rebounds and five assists.
“I was just trying to make winning plays and really just trying to affect the game rather than just shooting,” Karaban said. “So I think going in with that approach really helped me in getting my confidence back.”
Tristen Newton scored 14 and freshman Solomon Ball had a season-best 13 points as the Huskies shot 51.5% from the field.
RJ Davis led the Tar Heels (7-2) with 26 points and Harrison Ingram added 20. Armando Bacot finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds but North Carolina couldn’t keep pace with the Huskies, shooting 39% in the final 20 minutes and 44% overall.
“We had good looks,” coach Hubert Davis said. “We just didn’t make them.”
UConn started pulling away early in the second, taking a 62-49 lead on Spencer’s jumper as the shot clock expired with 14:27 remaining. North Carolina got within five on a jumper by Davis with 11:02 left, but the Huskies ripped off an 18-6 surge for an 83-66 advantage with about three minutes left.
North Carolina: Played its fourth non-conference game against a power conference opponent and scored its fewest points all season. North Carolina is 0-2 against Big East teams and 2-0 versus the SEC.
UConn: Stephon Castle’s return from a knee injury was met with thunderous applause from the crowd. The highly touted freshman had three points and four rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench. Castle missed the previous six games with a knee injury that required a minor procedure.
North Carolina: Will face No. 16 Kentucky in Atlanta on Dec. 16.
UConn: Will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday before playing No. 7 Gonzaga in Seattle on Dec. 15.
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