At long last, the UConn men’s basketball team is set to take the floor on Saturday, suiting up for a high-profile clash with the No. 24 Seton Hall Pirates. This marks their first game this year, and first since Dec. 21. After COVID-19 struck both the men’s and women’s programs, the men are finally passing protocols and ready to continue Big East play.
“I can say with as much confidence as a basketball coach can, it looks good for us to be able to play this out through, hopefully late into March,” head coach Dan Hurley said on Thursday.
Since his return from injury, the Huskies (10-3, 1-1 Big East) have benefited from the performance of Tyrese Martin, who was arguably the player of the game in UConn’s last contest, a 78-70 win over Marquette. The senior had 25 points on 9-for-16 shooting, and he added six rebounds and an assist to his stat sheet.
Even with Martin back, the team still isn’t fully healthy, with sophomore forward Adama Sanogo still dealing with a hamstring injury from the Marquette game. He was limited in practice on Thursday, so it will be likely that UConn cannot get a full-throttle game from the big man.
The Huskies haven’t played since last year (ha, get it?) and they’re facing a tough opponent in the Pirates, but they’re looking to shake off the rust in this one, which would be a big win for the program. UConn has been in-and-out of the AP Top 25 so far this year, and could very easily see themselves back in on Monday with a road win against a ranked opponent.
Connecticut split the season series with Hurley’s alma mater last year, with each team winning their away game. Sanogo was stellar in both games, beating up on a program that formerly recruited him. UConn certainly would have benefited from him being fully healthy for Saturday.
The Pirates (10-3, 1-2 Big East) have been solid so far this year, starting out scorching hot with wins over both No. 4 Michigan and No. 7 Texas. They have been slipping as of late, however, with consecutive losses to ranked Providence and Villanova. A bounce back win against Butler on Tuesday was exactly what Seton Hall needed, and they’ll hope to carry that momentum into Saturday.
The Pirates have been led by senior Jared Rhoden, who is averaging 16.4 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game. He is a solid defender as well, coming in at second on the team in steals with 18 in his 12 games played. If the Huskies want to do some damage on the road, they will need to contain the Preseason Big East All-First Team selection.
Big men Akok Akok and Isaiah Whaley will have a tough defender down low to worry about as well, with graduate student Ike Obiagu leading the team with 2.6 blocks per game. The 7’2” center is a force on the block and hopes to keep UConn away from the paint, forcing them to rely on their so-far-lackluster 3-point shooting.
The game is set to tip off at 12 p.m. at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, where the Huskies recently beat St. Bonaventure in the Never Forget Tribute Classic. The contest will be broadcast on FOX.