UConn men hold on to beat Providence 73-66 in Big East quarterfinal after nearly blowing 26-point lead

NEW YORK –The UConn men’s basketball team went from looking like it was on the verge of a 30-point blowout win over Providence in Thursday’s Big East Tournament quarterfinal to looking like it was about to suffer one of the largest comebacks in tournament history in a matter of minutes.

The Huskies held on for the 73-66 win, but it wasn’t without the drama.

to being one of the largest comebacks in tournament history in a matter of minutes. The Huskies held on for the 73-66 win, but it wasn’t without the drama.”]

UConn was rolling, and Madison Square Garden was jumping as they raced out to a 26-point lead near the middle of the second half, but Providence answered with a 29-8 scoring run over 10 minutes to get the game within five.

Jordan Hawkins led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, while Tristen Newton added 16 in his first game off the bench all season. Andre Jackson finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Adama Sanogo scored 10 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting.

Jackson started the game with a 3-pointer on UConn’s first possession. A rare shot for him, Jackson quickly returned to what he got used to all season and, minutes later, threw down an aggressive two-handed fast break dunk to cap off a 6-0 scoring run that gave the Huskies an 11-4 lead early on.

Jackson flew to the rim again later on for an offensive rebound, which he collected and passed out to Joey Calcaterra for a 3-pointer.

Then, with less than two minutes until halftime, Jackson drove through the lane again. He caught a well-timed pass from Donovan Clingan, rose up with the ball in his right hand, arm extended, and threw it down around the arm of Providence forward Clifton Moore, who soon knew he wasn’t stopping an airborne Jackson. Once he landed, Jackson flexed his arms and roared. Hawkins followed up Jackson’s dunk with his first 3-pointer of the game and Calcaterra connected from distance on the next possession to give UConn a 35-18 lead with 59 seconds until halftime.

UConn fans making up much of the 19,812 in attendance, the World’s Most Famous Arena might have been the world’s loudest just for a moment.

Despite turning the ball over 10 times in the first half, UConn held a 16-point lead at halftime. Providence shot just 29.6% from the field in the first half and was 1-for-9 on 3-pointers while the Huskies made 57.7% of their shots from the field and went 5-for-13 from beyond the arc.

UConn continued shooting well in the second half as 3-pointers from Alex Karaban and Newton fell through before Hawkins scored four straight points and Calcaterra bounced a perfect fast-break pass to Jackson for another dunk. Just like that, UConn’s lead was up to 24 with 16:26 left in the game.

Newton made his third 3-pointer of the night before Alleyne joined the party from the corner.

Providence showed life, though, as the game clock approached its midway point in the second half. The Friars used a 12-0 run to cut their deficit from 26 to 14 in about three minutes of game time, but Newton made a momentum-pausing straight-away 3 and Sanogo flushed a dunk to push the lead back to 17.

The Friars were not done, however. With the whole group contributing, Providence stormed back to get the game within five points with 3:33 left on the clock. UConn went scoreless with several turnovers over a four-minute stretch during the run as Providence fans took control of the party.

With UConn in need of a hero, Hawkins put on his cape. The sophomore lined up for a 3-pointer that gave the Huskies a bit more breathing room with an eight-point lead and about three minutes left on the clock. Providence still wouldn’t go away, but Karaban drained his second 3-pointer of the game which proved to be the dagger, making the score 71-63 with a minute left.

UConn will play No. 1 seed Marquette in the semifinal round at the Garden on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The Golden Eagles barely survived St. John’s in the first game on Thursday but found a way to win, 72-70 in overtime.