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Karaban's 26 points lead No. 4 UConn to an 80-67 win over Georgetown and a claim to poll's top spot

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Alex Karaban tied a career high with 26 points and No. 4 UConn made its case to be considered the nation’s top team with an 80-67 win over Georgetown on Sunday.

Cam Spencer added 20 points for the Huskies (15-2, 5-1 Big East) who won their fifth straight game, all without starting center Donovan Clingan, who remained sidelined with a right foot injury. Freshman Stephon Castle added 14 points.

Coach Dan Hurley said the Huskies have earned the right to be ranked No. 1 and embrace the “target” that would come with that.

“We've got the will and the confidence of a championship program, in the brutalist league in the country,” he said.

Supreme Cook had 18 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Hoyas (8-9, 1-5). Jayden Epps added 16 points and Dontrez Styles added 11.

UConn opened the game on a 6-2 run, with 3-pointers from Spencer and Karaban, a harbinger of things to come.

But without Clingan, UConn had a tough time containing Cook. The Fairfield transfer hit his first four shots and scored Georgetown’s first 10 points, keeping the Hoyas in the game early.

Cook had 16 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, but fouled out with more than six minutes left in the game.

“I'm proud of him,” coach Ed Cooley said. “Because he's in there battling. We need some other battering rams in there. The Hoyas have got to do a better job helping him.”

Karaban had five of his six 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes. His fourth of the game gave the Huskies their first double-digit lead at 32-22 and the Huskies led 40-31 at halftime.

The 6-foot-8 sophomore has spent much of his time playing at center with Clingan out, which has created a lot of mismatches on both ends of the floor.

“No one is going to feel sorry for us just because we are missing one of our top players,” Karaban said. “We just have to go out there and just play at a whole other level.”

The Hoyas got within six points in the second half, but could get no closer.

The Huskies shot 51% from the floor and made 13 of their 24 shots from behind the arc.

BIG PICTURE

Georgetown: The Hoyas have lost the past seven meetings with UConn and now trail the series with the Huskies 37-36.

UConn: With the three teams above the Huskies losing this week (Purdue, Houston and Kansas), the defending national champions have a chance to be No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll on Monday.

CLINGAN NEARS RETURN

Hurley said Clingan, who participated in warmups Sunday, won't be rushed back from his foot injury, but the 7-2 sophomore could be ready shortly in limited minutes for the Huskies.

“He has the experience from last year coming off the bench,” Hurley said. “We'll do that initially with him and kind of play him like we did last year — short spurts until he's potentially ready to do starter minutes.”

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

Karaban was 9 of 13 from the floor, including 6 of 8 from behind the arc. Spencer hit six of his nine shots and was 5 of 7 from 3-point range.

CONFERENCE WOES

Since winning the Big East Tournament in 2021, Georgetown is 3-44 against conference opponents.

UP NEXT

Georgetown: travels to Cincinnati to take on Xavier on Friday.

UConn: returns to campus to host Creighton on Wednesday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball