If there’s one thing we all learned from Tuesday night’s UConn vs. Georgetown men’s basketball game, it’s that just because it’s a close game doesn’t mean it’s a good game.
After 30 minutes of ugly basketball by both teams on both ends of the floor (and 40 minutes of ugly basketball by Georgetown), the Huskies (11-6, 8-6 Big East) came out on top, beating the Hoyas (7-11, 5-8 Big East) 70-57. It doesn’t look like a close game on the scoreboard, but for most of the game it was. UConn just pulled away in the final 10 minutes or so.
“Thrilled with the win,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “Obviously got off to a blistering start at both ends of the court, really jumped them. Just kind of lost our way there, rest of the first half. It was obviously ugly offensively, but we just hung in there defensively, and really through much of the second half until we were able to find a little bit of a rhythm.”
Here’s a positive: UConn had a whopping 18 offensive rebounds.
Here’s a negative: When you’re getting a lot of offensive rebounds, it means you’re missing a lot of shots.
And, just because you grab a bunch of offensive boards it doesn’t always lead to points. Despite getting 18 offensive rebounds – which ties for the most they’ve had in a conference game this season – the Huskies scored merely nine second-chance points.
As a team, UConn shot 45.5% from the field, which actually is a really solid number. The thing is, a lot of UConn’s scoring came in the final quarter-ish of the game. Through most of the game, it looked like UConn couldn’t buy a bucket — highlighted by an over five-minute stretch right at the end of the first half where the Huskies quite literally missed every field goal they attempted.
At the end of the half, UConn was shooting 12-for-34, or 35% from the field. Even in the second half, despite shooting 56.3% from the field, just six of UConn’s 18 successful field goals came in the first 10 minutes.
If there is one thing that was consistent about UConn’s scoring over both halves, though, was their 3-point shooting – in that it was consistently terrible.
The Huskies shot 2-for-11 from three on the game, 0-for-5 in the first half and 2-for-6 in the second half — but it would have been 1-for-5 if not for James Bouknight burring one from deep 3-point land when the game was all but over. Tyler Polley was the only other Husky to pick up a 3-point bucket, capping off a five-point, 2-for-8 shooting day where he went 1-for-5 from three.
Bouknight showed some signs of rust in the first half but picked it up in the second, finishing the day with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-17 shooting from the field, including 1-of-3 from three. He even led the team with 10 rebounds, tying a career-high and making it his second game in a row where he put up a 20-point double-double.
R.J. Cole was right behind Bouknight in the scoring column, racking up 17 points on 8-of-16 shooting (0-of-2 from three), while picking up five boards and a team-high seven assists. He even picked up a game-high six steals, a high for his UConn career.
On a night when the Huskies struggled pretty much around the board for a majority of the game, Cole showed up with one of the best games he’s had in a UConn uniform. As a team, UConn committed 14 turnovers, tied for their second-most in a conference game all season.
Cole, the point guard and primary ball-handler for the 34 minutes he was on the court, contributed zero to that total. That’s right — SEVEN assists and ZERO turnovers — and the 17 points don’t hurt either.
“I see a guy who’s growing into the role of being the point guard, being the quarterback,” Hurley said. “Showing greater mental toughness and will to win than he showed earlier in the season. At Xavier, this game here, he’s had halves and a couple of full games where he’s looked like the type of really, really good point guard that should be leading the Huskies.”
Bouknight and Cole were the only two UConn players to break double digits in the scoring column, and they were also one of few players who managed to stay out of foul trouble, picking up just one apiece. The Huskies had 20 fouls as a team, something they’ve had an issue controlling all season.
Isaiah Whaley had five, fouling out in just 22 minutes of play with seven points, seven boards, two blocks and a steal. No one had four, but UConn had a trio of guys with three: Adama Sanogo, Andre Jackson and Josh Carlton. The latter two did so in just 12 and 10 minutes, respectively, which is honestly kind of impressive.
If it wasn’t already clear by his absence, UConn is going to need to rely on Bouknight heavily this season if they want to make the tournament. He’s the star, and on Tuesday, he played like it.
“When Bouk is in rhythm and has had some games to play, obviously the team gels,” Hurley said. “We’re obviously a team that has shown it can win a lot of games. We’re excited about the Big East tournament, having the band back together again. We’re a really good team when we’re fully loaded and healthy.”
The Huskies have three games left before the Big East Tournament, a home game vs. Marquette, an away game vs. Seton Hall and a home game vs. Georgetown. Then, if UConn doesn’t win the conference tournament, their NCAA tournament hopes will be up to the selection committee.
UConn’s next game, the Marquette game, will take place on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and can be watched on FOX.