akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

BOSTON — The more things change, the more things stay the same. The two biggest changes on the Connecticut roster going into this season assured that the result of the rematch of last season’s national championship game remained exactly the same.

Transfer Cam Spencer scored 18 points while true freshman Stephon Castle put up his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Huskies, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, rolled past San Diego State 82-52 in the Sweet 16 match-up inside TD Garden in Boston on Thursday evening. Continuing its dominance in the Big Dance, Connecticut, the defending national champions, has now won each of its last nine NCAA Tournament games by at least 17 points. Furthermore, the Huskies have built a lead of at least 30 points in each of the three games of this year’s tournament.

Whatever step back that the Huskies were supposed to take after losing three starters from last year’s title team instead morphed into one giant leap towards becoming a modern-day college basketball dynasty, with Spencer, who transferred from Rutgers, and Castle, the Big East preseason Freshman of the Year, filling in the gaps even more seamlessly than many would have imagined.

Similar to last season, when starters Jordan Hawkins, Andre Jackson Jr. and Adama Sanogo all bypassed staying in college to declare for the NBA Draft, part of the reason for the quick success in replacing those parts is the fact that, whether becasue of running out of eligibility or being talented enough to go pro, there may not be that much time remaining for Spencer and Castle to wear the UConn jersey.

Obviously we feel pressure because we want Cam and Steph and some of these guys that are maybe on their last run at UConn to experience a Final Four and national championship,” Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley said.

It was Spencer who set the tone for Connecticut in the game’s first 20 minutes, scoring 16 of his points during that stretch as the Huskies opened up a tight beginning of the half to open up a nine-point lead at the break. Castle then broke out for one of his best halves of the season when the teams came out after halftime, with a couple of highlight-reel dunks off of feeds from Spencer to help the Huskies stretch the lead.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday evening’s game, with photos taken by ALOST staff photographer Erica Denhoff. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 30 pictures in total.

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Tags : Big East ConferenceConnecticut HuskiesMountain West ConferenceNCAA TournamentSan Diego State Aztecs

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