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UConn uses improbable second-half run to clinch trip to Final Four, continue March Madness dominance


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For the first time in school history, the UConn Huskies are in the Final Four in consecutive years.

The top-seeded Huskies continued their March Madness dominance since their national championship last year with a 77-52 victory over third-seeded Illinois.

With less than 90 seconds left in the first half, the game was tied at 23, and it looked like the 36-3 Huskies had finally met their match.

Then, UConn then went on a 30-0 run. That’s right — 30-0.

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Cam Spencer (12) of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates a basket against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second half of the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament at TD Garden March 30, 2024, in Boston.  (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

During that stretch, the Huskies were 12-for-15 from the floor, while Illinois missed 16 straight shots. UConn eventually went up by 31 with 11:48 to go, putting yet another game away early.

In their last 10 March Madness games, UConn has beaten opponents by an average of 23.1 points. The Huskies have won each game by at least 13. This season, their closest game was a 75-58 win over No. 8 Northwestern in the Round of 32. In this tournament, their average margin of victory is 27.8.

The 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan continued to be a man among boys around the glass, going for a tournament-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. It was his fourth 20-point game this season and his second 20-10 game. Guard Cam Spencer added a dozen boards.

Donovan Clingan dunk

Donovan Clingan (32) of the Connecticut Huskies dunks against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the first half of an Elite Eight game in the 2024 NCAA Tournament at TD Garden March 30, 2024, in Boston.  (Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

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Four Huskies (Clingan, Spencer, Alex Karaban and Hassan Diarra) were all in double-digits. Outside of Marcus Domask’s 17, Illinois’ next-highest scorers were Terrence Shannon Jr. and Amani Hansberry with eight each. Shannon averaged 23.5 points this season entering the game.

Illinois shot just 25.4% from the floor in the loss.

If there is one bugaboo for UConn, it’s the team’s inconsistent 3-point shooting. The Huskies shot 3-for-17 on Saturday and went 3-for-22 in the Round of 32. But in the first round and the Sweet 16, UConn shot 9-for-24 and 10-for-26, respectively. That all adds up to 22.9%, which isn’t ideal. But the Huskies’ have compensated by converting 63.8% of their two-point attempts in the tournament.

Huskies celebrating

Donovan Clingan (32) of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates a 3-pointer against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the second half of an Elite Eight game in the NCAA Tournament at TD Garden March 30, 2024, in Boston.  (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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The Huskies will face the winner of No. 4 Alabama and No. 6 Clemson, who face off Sunday.

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