New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Newton has been X-factor for the Huskies
Tristen Newton arrived in Storrs advertised as a point guard who’s “wired to score,” having tallied over 1,000 points in three seasons at East Carolina.
Taking more charges than a Visa card? Not exactly his M.O.
“Not at all,” Newton said on Saturday, after helping the UConn men’s basketball team to a narrow win at Georgetown. “My brother takes a lot of charges, he’s always taking charges ... If you watch one of his games, he’s probably going to take two, three charges.”
Jawaun Newton is a grad transfer at Southern Illinois this season after spending the past four seasons at Evansville. He’s not a scorer like his younger brother, but his ability to take a charge has certainly rubbed off on Tristen. After drawing a charge on Georgetown’s Jay Heath late in the first half on Saturday, Newton has now drawn 11 charges on the season, easily tops on the Huskies. Jordan Hawkins is next with seven.
“I pretty much got that from him,” Newton said of Jawaun. “I’ve just got to give big credit to him for that.”
But that’s just one element of Newton’s game that has stood out this season, especially lately. Newton is currently third on the Huskies in scoring at 10.5 points per game, behind just Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins. He’s gone to the foul line more than anyone in the Big East except Xavier’s Souley Boum and hit 81.6 percent of them, while also shooting a decent 34.6 percent from 3.
But maybe this is the most important thing you need to know about Newton. In UConn’s 18 wins, he’s averaging 11 points per game and shooting 36.6 percent from 3. In the Huskies’ six losses, Newton averages 8.8 points and shoots a mere 28.5 percent from 3.
It’s not a stretch to say that, as
Tristen Newton goes, so go the Huskies.
“Since Adama and Hawk are so dominant, they can do whatever they want, it gives us another scoring threat,” Newton acknowledges. “Just going out there, helping my team, being more aggressive with my shot. If that's what we need to win, that's what I'll do.”
Newton did a little bit of everything on Saturday, particularly in the first half. Just over eight minutes into the game, Newton had eight points, two steals, two assists and two rebounds, accounting for 12 of UConn's first 15 points. In the latter half, after Georgetown had cut its one-time eight-point deficit down to one, Newton hit a tough fallaway, followed by a layup off a pass from 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan at the high post, to give the Huskies a 50-45 lead.
Newton wound up with 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in 33 minutes. But the selfeffacing Texan wasn't about to brag about it afterwards.
“First 3, I didn't even know I was open, Andre ( Jackson) told me to shoot it, so credit to him,” Newton said. “Credit to everybody giving me good looks. Most of the time it's either assisted or a good screen, so credit to my teammates.”
Instead, Jackson, who caught a lob pass from Newton for a powerful, two-handed slam early in the latter half, did Newton's bragging for him.
“He's been really good,” the 6-foot-6 junior said of Newton. “He's showing a lot of intensity on the defensive and offensive end, being the really aggressive guard that we need right now. He's coming through in a big way for us.”
Newton's value to the team has never been more evident than over the past month or so. He played poorly in UConn's first four losses of the season, shooting a combined 8for-25 and averaging just under five points per game. It culminated with a season-worst performance in an embarrassing, 85-74 loss at home to St. John's on Jan. 15.
Looking groggy all game, Newton went scoreless, air-balling his only field goal attempt and bricking his only two free throw attempts. He recently admitted he felt “terrible” in that game, and has made it a point to take better care of his body, “making sure I've felt good for these games.”
Newton has scored in double figures in the five games since then, including a season high-matching 23 in a crushing loss to Xavier. He had 21 in a 9076 win at DePaul on Tuesday night that included a huge four-point play late in the game.
“Tristen's really evolving, improving, playing more like the guy that's in his second year with us,” said coach Dan Hurley. “He's picking his spots, being more aggressive driving the ball.”
Indeed, maybe the most telling stat in UConn's first four losses this season was that Newton only went to the foul line a combined three times (missing all three). Over the Huskies' four games prior to Saturday (two wins, two losses), however, Newton was a combined 28-for-31 from the charity stripe. He's taking the ball to the hole with authority, a hallmark of his strong early-season play.
“Trying to be more aggressive,” Newton said. “I've been in a lot more ball-screen situations. Coming off ball screens, I've got Adama down low, I've got shooters everywhere.”
“Tristen,” Hurley added, “is figuring it out.”
Then there are those charges. He may not be in Phil Nolan or R.J. Cole territory (yet), but his older brother's example sure has rubbed off on Newton, who said the key to taking a charge is “pretty much just timing.”
“The possession before, I'll see how they play me. Most of the time, if they beat me they'll dip their shoulder or something. So, if I see them dip their shoulder, just take it in the chest and fall down.”
Figuring it out, indeed.