Men’s Basketball: Huskies to begin crucial final stretch against Georgetown

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Connecticut’s Isaiah Whaley, right, and Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl leap for a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Villanova, Pa. The Huskies are set to play the Georgetown Hoyas this coming Tuesday. Photo by Matt Slocum/AP Photo.

Four games. That’s all that remains in the regular season for the UConn men’s basketball team. And after failing to pick up a statement win over Villanova on Saturday, there really is no margin for error anymore if UConn wants to compete for the ultimate prize in college hoops. 

The Huskies (10-6, 7-6 Big East) need to win all four of their remaining games, plus probably at least one game in the Big East Tournament to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament, which has been the goal for this team from the very beginning. That stretch has to begin with a good showing against the Georgetown Hoyas (7-10, 5-7 Big East) on Tuesday night.  

Despite being closer to the bottom of the Big East standings, Georgetown has a couple of key wins against teams toward the top, so this will not be an easy game for the Huskies by any means. The Hoyas beat nationally ranked Creighton on the road a few weeks ago, and they are coming off a big win over Seton Hall on Saturday. 

“They found themselves, and they’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” head coach Dan Hurley said on Monday night. “This is a much different team than the one that lost to Navy and the one that struggled early in conference play. It’s a really good team, good size, and they all understand their roles.” 

Led by basketball hall of famer Patrick Ewing in his fourth season as head coach, Georgetown is in a rebuilding phase. The team is looking to reestablish itself as a top Big East program and match the success it had in previous decades. They aren’t there yet, but this season, they’ve shown flashes that they’re getting close. Ewing’s culture is starting to manifest itself in how they play. 

“It’s not surprising how they’re playing or how they’re shaped,” Hurley said. “They’re really well-coached when you watch them on film.” 

The Hoyas are a balanced scoring team, and they’ve had the most success when all their top players get involved. Senior guard Jahvon Blair leads the team with 16.2 points per game, but even when he has an off game like he did against Seton Hall, there are still five other guys that can score in the double digits. The two big men Jamorko Pickett and Qudus Wahab each average over 11 points and eight rebounds per game, and Pickett also happens to be the team’s best 3-point shooter percentage-wise (39%). Chudier Bile, Dante Harris and Donald Carey round out the main rotation for Georgetown, and any one of those guys can have a big night. Or, as was the case against Seton Hall, all of them can. 

Hurley said Blair will be a really tough matchup for James Bouknight defensively, and he said that Pickett is “playing like a guy who has NBA type of potential down the road.” 

For the Huskies, the focus has to be on playing really good defense, which for the most part, they always do. Then on the offensive end, they have to let Bouknight do his thing, but the other guys have to get involved and hit shots when they’re open. R.J. Cole, Tyrese Martin and Isaiah Whaley are all crucial to this team’s success because if those guys can provide even a moderately consistent scoring threat, it opens up the floor even more for Bouknight. 

“I think overall as a group, we’ve got to take a better approach to offense,” Hurley said. “I think we got caught [against Villanova] standing around and watching James too much. James is going to find his offense in the flow of how we play. He doesn’t have to hunt it, and we don’t have to stand around and watch him.” 

We’ve only seen brief flashes of how good this UConn team can be when everyone’s healthy, but we will need to see that for an extended period down the stretch this season if the Huskies want to keep playing basketball into mid-March. 

Tuesday’s game will tip off at 9 p.m. from McDonough Arena in Washington D.C. The game can be seen on FS1. 

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