Clingan helps Huskies make history with back-to-back national championships

Former Bristol Central superstar Donovan Clingan was a part of history on Monday night at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

The UConn men’s basketball team became the first to win back-to-back national championships since the University of Florida did so in 2006 and 2007. Only Duke, led in part by head coach Dan Hurley’s brother Bobby (1991-1992), Florida (2006-2007) and now UConn (2023-2024) have won back-to-back since the dynasty days of UCLA under John Wooden.

How do you sum up the want to achieve back-to-back championships? Clingan did a pretty good job when he was interviewed by Andy Katz following UConn’s 75-60 win over Purdue University.

“The returners really realized what it took to go back and do this again,” Clingan said. “It’s a very hard thing to do. It’s hard to win a lot of games, but we’re the most competitive team in the country, and all we want to do is win.”

Clingan, backup Samson Johnson and even Alex Karaban were tasked with something that’s not really possible. That’s guarding back-to-back National Player of the Year Zach Edey, all 7-foot-4, 300 pounds of him. Edey wound up with 37 points and 10 rebounds, but UConn was ok with that. Why? The Huskies instead shut down the Boilermaker three-point shooters. Purdue, the second-best three-point shooting team in the country, went 1-for-7. One. For. Seven.

“You just wall up, don’t give him the extra and-ones, and just lock up the three-point line,” Clingan said about the strategy. “If he scores his two points, he scores his two points. We come back down and get three. Three is more than two.”

Clingan played 31 minutes and had 11 points (5-for-8 shooting), five rebounds, a block and an assist. He did have four fouls, but Edey seems to draw more fouls than many teams, so that’s not surprising.

A key play from Clingan came on the first possession of the second half. After snagging a defensive rebound on Purdue’s opening salvo, Clingan pulled down an offensive board on a Spencer miss. He kicked it back out to Newton, who buried a 3-pointer for a 39-30 lead. The six-point deficit the Boilermakers faced at halftime turned out to be as close as they would get. 

Tristen Newton was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player after tallying 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes played. Stephon Castle had 15 points and Cam Spencer added 11 and eight rebounds.

“This team just loves each other,” Clingan said, peering over at his celebrating teammates during the interview. “Look at it. Everybody is happy for one another. The best decision of my life to come to this school.”

Clingan added this at the end of the interview, and this biased UConn grad and fan couldn’t agree more.

“Blue blood. UConn is a blue blood,” Clingan said.

The Huskies now have six national championships, and Clingan has put his large stamp on the last two. 

Photo credit: UConn athletics.