INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Alex Karaban scored 20 points, Tristen Newton added 17 and No. 4 UConn came back to beat Butler 88-81 on Friday night for its third straight victory without injured center Donovan Clingan.

The Huskies (13-2, 3-1 Big East) trailed 42-35 at halftime but shot 55% from the field overall in front of a sellout crowd on the road. Freshman guard Stephon Castle finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Cam Spencer also scored 14, including a critical 3-pointer that made it 83-76 with 48.1 seconds left.

“It was a great game to watch,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “I was losing my mind. Lot of intensity out there. The championship DNA we have showed.”

DJ Davis had 22 points, Pierre Brooks II scored 19 and Jamyl Telfort added 16 for the Bulldogs (10-5, 1-3), who shot 47% and were outrebounded 33-24.

“We’re close,” Butler coach Thad Matta said. “We’re not there yet. You’ve got to fight for 40 (minutes). You’ve got to think for 40. I like this team. We did a lot of good things, but when you play a team as good as UConn is, when you make mistakes, they make you pay.”

Connecticut improved to 8-0 in the all-time series, which began with a meeting in the 2011 NCAA championship game.

UConn roared back in the second half with a 15-4 run, capped by a 3 from Karaban, to go ahead 54-50 with 12:07 remaining. Hassan Diarra’s fast-break layup made it 73-65 with 5:21 left, UConn’s largest lead of the game.

“We were soft in the first half,” Hurley said. “We fought in the last 20. Tristen carried his team like a champion on the court. It’s amazing what (Matta) has done from Year 1 to Year 2. They've got four guys that can get 15, 18, 20-plus points. They’re a top-30, top-40 team in the country, easy.”


Down four with just more than a minute remaining, Butler appeared to get the stop it needed when Diarra missed from long range. However, the wing players failed to box out, and Spencer ran in from the perimeter and grabbed the offensive rebound. That was the beginning of the end for the Bulldogs, whose fans streamed toward the exits when Spencer drilled his clutch 3 after the ensuing timeout.


UConn: The defending national champions are displaying their potential to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament even in the absence of Clingan. The 7-foot-2 sophomore averages 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, but the Huskies are showing they are a complete team even without him. Fill-in starter Samson Johnson contributed eight points and six boards.

Butler: The Bulldogs have exceeded the expectations some had for them so far this season, but they are struggling on defense lately. During a three-game losing streak, Butler has allowed 86.3 points per game. Those three opponents have combined to shoot 49.7% from the floor.


UConn: Will play Wednesday night at Xavier, which swept the season series in 2022-23.

Butler: Will play Wednesday night at No. 7 Marquette, which has won five of the past six meetings.


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