After a blowout win in front of a sellout crowd on Tuesday night, the UConn men’s basketball team will bring its talents to the XL Center in Hartford to take on the Coppin State Eagles on Saturday.
The No. 24 Huskies made quick business of the CCSU Blue Devils this past week, naturally demolishing the 11th worst team in the country, according to the Kenpom ratings. With 358 eligible schools, it seems hard for a team to be below that, but that’s where Coppin State ranks, coming in at a lowly 351th. In those same rankings, UConn is 21st.
The Eagles have taken quite the beating so far this season, as they have already played (and lost) two games this week — one against Loyola Chicago and the other against DePaul. Each defeat was decided by 25 points or more, with the game against the Ramblers being a crushing 103-45 defeat.
Coppin State is led by two guards, Jesse Zarzuela and Mike Hood, who are averaging 16.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively. Hood seems to be the most efficient out of the group, making more than half of his shots — a mark only one other teammate has hit. He started out strong against Loyola Chicago, going 3-for-6, but foul trouble limited his time on the court. Hood stayed out of trouble against DePaul, cooking the Blue Demons for 18 points, adding two blocks and two steals. While there might not be a ton of guys to watch out for on this squad, Hood is definitely one of them.
In their first and only game this year, UConn had the luxury of six scorers earning nine points or more, highlighting the offensive depth of this team, despite losing lottery pick James Bouknight to the NBA this offseason.
So far, the top dog has been sophomore big man Adama Sanogo, whose soft touches off the glass make for an elite post scorer. He put up 20 points and five rebounds on 9-for-11 shooting on Tuesday. His freshman campaign showed just as much promise, as he carved a role in the starting five and earned Big East All-Tournament team honors by the end of the year. After one game, Sanogo seems to be picking up where he left off.
“[Sanogo’s] a special type of player that you get to coach. His preparation and what he puts into his success, how badly he wants this program to succeed, it’s just a different type of animal, man,” coach Dan Hurley remarked on Tuesday night.
The freshmen in this past contest all got limited minutes, with nobody exceeding 10 minutes of play. They looked understandably rattled, but both Rahsool Diggins and Samson Johnson were able to break the collegiate ice with the first baskets of their college careers. If the game becomes another blowout, it would be nice to see them, alongside Richie Springs and perhaps a now-recovered Jordan Hawkins, get some more early experience before the season picks up.
In the last game, the Husky defense was in full form, forcing a whopping 29 turnovers, and they look to continue that trend on Saturday. On top of the turnovers, UConn blocked nine total shots and stole the ball 15 times. The team scored 47 points off of turnovers Tuesday night — almost enough to beat CCSU on that alone. They hope to generate a similar result against Coppin State — a team averaging 15 turnovers per game thus far.
“We’re tough to score against. RJ [Cole] is tough on the ball. You have two wings out there at 6’6’’ and 6’7’’ with Isaiah [Whaley] who is one of the best defensive frontcourt players in the country,” Hurley said. “What Adama [Sanogo] does and when you bring in more length with Akok [Akok] and Tyler [Polley], the court shrinks for people.”
Tipoff is slated for noon on Saturday and will be broadcasted on FS2.