UConn Huskies open title defense with win on banner night

STORRS, Conn. -- UConn unveiled its fifth national championship banner Monday, then unveiled a new-look team that expects to compete for a sixth title.

Alex Karaban scored a career-high 22 points to lead five players in double figures, and the No. 6 Huskies routed Northern Arizona 95-52.

Tristen Newton scored 14 points, Donovan Clingan and Stephon Castle each had 12 and Samson Johnson added 11 for UConn after a raucous banner ceremony that put a cap on the 2023 title.

"In shootaround when you look up there, that's something you're never going to forget about," coach Dan Hurley said. "But we've been working so hard since June to get this team ready to play, and no one is really thinking about that. But that was cool. I got emotional."

The Huskies shot 56% (32-of-57) from the floor and held the Lumberjacks to 34% (20-of-59).

Liam Lloyd led Northern Arizona with 15 points.

The Huskies won their games in last year's NCAA tournament by an average of 20 points, but then lost their top three players -- Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. -- to the NBA. That trio averaged a combined 40.1 points and 17.7 rebounds a game.

This season the team is literally centered around Clingan. But the 7-foot-2 sophomore missed the last month of the preseason with a right foot strain. He is being eased back into the rotation and played just 15 minutes, grabbing eight rebounds.

"Just to be able to get my first college start, be able to get out on the floor, coming off an injury and feeling good out there, it was definitely a great feeling," Clingan said.

The sophomore center opened the scoring with an offensive rebound and layup, part of a 14-5 opening run. The Huskies took their first 20-point lead when Karaban rebounded his own miss and put it in to make it 39-19. UConn led 47-30 at the half.