Shorthanded Texas falls in Empire Classic title game to No. 5 UConn 81-71

NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Karaban scored 20 points, including three clutch jumpers down the stretch, and No. 5 UConn turned back 15th-ranked Texas 81-71 on Monday night to win the Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Cam Spencer had 16 points and Samson Johnson set career highs with 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench for the defending national champion Huskies (5-0), who have won 22 consecutive nonconference games — all by double digits.

Dillon Mitchell scored a career-best 21 on 9-of-12 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds for the undermanned Longhorns (4-1), who played without starting forward Kadin Shedrick. Tyrese Hunter had 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Huskies point guard Tristen Newton, who had eight points and eight assists, was selected tournament MVP. Newton had 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in Sunday’s 77-57 semifinal win over Indiana.

It was UConn’s first Empire Classic championship since 2013.

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Texas trailed by 14 with 7:05 left before Hunter scored five points, including a 3-point play, and set up Ithiel Horton’s 3-pointer to cap a quick 10-0 spurt that trimmed it to 71-67.

But then Karaban drained three huge shots in the final five minutes, twice barely beating the shot clock, to make sure the Huskies held on.

With a flurry of 3-pointers and dunks, some coming on the offensive glass, UConn used a 9-0 run to race out to a 16-point lead less than nine minutes into the game and took a 46-33 lead into halftime.

Shedrick was held out after having offseason surgery on both shoulders. The school said the decision was made as a precaution.

Ze’Rik Onyema started in Shedrick’s place against Connecticut.

Texas is also missing 6-foot-9 standout Dylan Disu, who remains sidelined following offseason surgery on his left foot. Disu led the Longhorns in scoring during the 2023 postseason and was selected Most Outstanding Player at the Big 12 Tournament, which Texas won.

UConn guard Stephon Castle, the preseason Big East freshman of the year, is expected to be out until at least early December following a minor procedure on his right knee. Castle averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and two steals in the first two games of the season.


UConn: Looking to become the first team to repeat as national champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007, the Huskies passed their biggest test yet early this season and are off to a strong start.

Texas: Minus two critical big men, the Longhorns clawed back into the game with a spirited effort in the second half against one of the nation’s top teams.


UConn: Will host Manhattan in Hartford on Friday afternoon and then New Hampshire at Gampel Pavilion next Monday night before a high-profile game at No. 1 Kansas on Dec. 1.

Texas: Will host Wyoming on Sunday afternoon and then Texas State on Nov. 30 before a visit to No. 4 Marquette on Dec. 6.

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