It was an impressive rebound game for the University of Connecticut.
The Huskies, who were in jeopardy of losing to a mediocre Maryland Eastern Team in their previous matchup, defeated Grambling State University in a blowout win 88-59. UConn had many questions to answer, with the most important question regarding the player who would take over on the scoring end for the Huskies in the absence of guard Tyrese Martin and center Adama Sanogo.
“Obviously, we have adjustments that we’ve got to make,” said head coach Dan Hurley.
That option looks to be freshman Jordan Hawkins. The guard gave the Huskies a huge scoring boost in his second consecutive start for the team and tallied 15 points on 5/11 shooting. Hawkins was lights out from three, and the Tigers simply couldn’t leave the freshman open as he knocked down shot after shot. With Martin away from the team for the foreseeable future, the freshman sensation will be tasked with contributing a large scoring boost for the team from the shooting guard position.
“I’ve always been confident in my shot,” said Hawkins. “I’ve got to step up with guys out, shoot more and knock them down.”
Along with Hawkins, point guard R.J. Cole was his usual self, with ridiculous finishes at the rim and getting his teammates involved. The guard finished with 18 points and seven assists in the game, and while he wasn’t able to be effective from the three point line, Cole was able to attack the rim, draw several foul calls, and get to the free throw line. Hurley talked about how much of a strength that is for the team.
“That’s the sign of a guy that knows how to play great,” said Hurley. “His perimeter shot didn’t work for him tonight and he didn’t have his A game offensively tonight, [but] that’s the sign of a guy that is able to use his mind and his basketball IQ to find his way to the type of production that we need from him every night.”
The team saw many improvements against the Tigers. Akok Akok, who had a bad stretch of games for the Huskies prior to Saturday’s game, accumulated double-digit scoring numbers and four blocks to solidify a great defensive performance for the big man. Isaiah Whaley provided 12 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks for another great performance from the fan favorite forward.
For the Tigers, the team had little offensive firepower other than Cam Christon. The senior guard had 18 points in just the first half before going down with an injury and staying sidelined for the rest of Saturday’s matchup. The Tigers weren’t able to replace the production of Christon once the guard went to the sidelines and the Huskies took off from there.
The cherry on top of Saturday’s game was the barrage of dunks that UConn had in store for the fans in attendance. The first masterpiece was an alley-oop from Cole to Akok, as the big man completed a difficult dunk to push the momentum toward UConn. Who had the second dunk? Andre Jackson has to be one of the first thoughts that comes to any fan’s mind, and the guard threw down a ridiculous one-handed slam that showed off the insane athleticism of the sophomore. The UConn dunk contest was capped off with an electric two-handed jam from freshman Samson Johnson, who has been tasked with more minutes in the wake of Sanogo’s injury.
The Huskies now have a reinvigorated energy such that if everyone plays their part, the team will continue to be a huge force against opposing competition. The Huskies take on the 7-1 West Virginia University Mountaineers, a team that has already lost to one Big East opponent, the Marquette Golden Eagles. Could the Huskies make that two losses for the Mountaineers?