Clingan helps Huskies finish off Tide in Final Four victory

There was one sequence of the UConn men’s basketball team’s 86-72 national semifinal win over Alabama that must have had NBA scouts salivating about sophomore Donovan Clingan.

On the offensive end, Clingan threw down a ferocious dunk off a great look from Tristen Newton for a 78-68 lead with 2:23 to play in the game. The Huskies were well on their way to victory, but Clingan didn’t stop playing. Instead he sprinted back on defense. Alabama, as is their style, pushed the ball up the court. The ball found its way to big man Grant Nelson, who had posterized Clingan earlier in the game with a one-handed slam. Nelson tried a finesse finish this time, but Clingan whacked it off the backboard for his fourth and final block of the game. The block came eight seconds after Clingan’s dunk.

The powerful finish on the offensive end, the hustle back on defense, and the emphatic block at the defensive end were terrific to watch. After UConn milked some clock, Cam Spencer (14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) found Clingan for another two-handed jam and an 80-68 lead at the 1:49 mark. The Huskies’ bench and fans inside State Farm Stadium exploded.

Clingan finished his second national semifinal game in as many years with 18 points (8-for-14 shooting, 2-for-2 free throws), five rebounds, four blocks and one assist (on a Stephon Castle slam) in 29 minutes. Clingan finished second on the team in points to Castle’s 21, and eight of his 18 points came on dunks.

Clingan helped UConn set up a big-time – pun intended – national championship game against 7-foot-4 behemoth Zach Edey and Purdue.

“Yeah, I’m real excited,” Clingan said about playing against Edey. “You play at this level to play big-time matchups, big-time games. I have a lot of respect for Zach Edey. He’s a great player.”

Clingan and the Huskies are a win away from a second straight national title, which would be the sixth in program history.

“We’re one step closer to our goal,” Clingan said. “But none of us in this locker room are satisfied. We know we have a lot of work to do, a big matchup on Monday.”

Clingan has certainly made Bristol Central, and the Bristol community as a whole, proud.

Photo credit: UConn athletics