Men’s Basketball: Huskies get chance at redemption vs. Creighton

Dec 30, 2020; Storrs, Connecticut, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard James Bouknight (2) shoots against DePaul Blue Demons guard Javon Freeman-Liberty (4) in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The last time UConn played Creighton, they lost the game — not only because of — but as a direct result of two missed free throws. It wasn’t the only reason the Huskies lost, but it’s the one that stands out. 

Now, just over one month later, UConn gets a chance at redemption. The team is coming off not only its second loss of the season, but its second loss where two crucial missed last-minute free throws played a huge role in the defeat. 

The last time the Huskies (7-2, 4-2 Big East) and Bluejays (10-4, 6-3 Big East) faced off, UConn lost by just two points in overtime. The one big difference this time? UConn will be without James Bouknight, who scored 40 points last time. Bouknight, who has already missed three games so far, is still out following surgery for an elbow injury he suffered in UConn’s game vs. Marquette, so the Huskies will need to find scoring elsewhere. 

Since Bouknight’s injury, UConn has had three players pick up some of the scoring slack: Tyrese Martin, R.J. Cole and Tyler Polley. 

Martin has been the most consistent, scoring at least 14 points each of the last three games. He’s also averaging nearly six rebounds and 4.3 steals over that span. If UConn is to stand a chance, Martin needs to keep up his scoring pace. 

Cole’s scoring has been a bit spottier, as even though he’s averaged 12.3 points, he’s done so on just 35% shooting from the field. His season high of 18 came in UConn’s last game vs. St. John’s, but he did so on an inefficient 6-of-16 shooting. He’s been a solid playmaker though, averaging nearly four-and-a-half assists, but the Huskies need more consistency from him in the scoring department. 

Polley has been the most explosive. In the three games since Bouknight’s injury, he’s averaged 12.6 points per game, and that doesn’t include his 23 point explosion in the game Bouknight got hurt. If UConn is to stand a chance, Polley needs to shoot the ball well from three like he’s capable of doing. 

As for the Bluejays, the team is on a two-game losing streak, falling to Butler by four in OT (UConn beat the Bulldogs by 12), and Providence also by four. Creighton is currently the No. 11 ranked team in the country, but probably won’t be that high when the next rankings come out. 

Denzel Mahoney is leading the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game, and Marcus Zegarowski is right behind him with 14.3 points and a team-high and 4.7 assists per game. In the Bluejays’ last matchup with the Huskies, Mahoney and Zegarowski combined for just 20 points on 8-of-25 shooting. 

UConn made Christian Bishop beat them, scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Bishop, a 6-foot-7 junior, is averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 5.4 rebounds on the season and has scored double-digit points in four of the team’s six games following the UConn game. His 19 points against UConn tied his career-high. 

The game is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 23. Tip-off is at noon and can be watched on FOX. 

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