At the end of the first half, UConn guard Tyrese Martin had just two points on 1-for-4 shooting, one rebound, two assists and three turnovers despite logging the most minutes on the team with 19.
Who would’ve guessed he would hit a career high in points by the end of regulation?
In the second half alone, the senior matched his career best in points with 25, going 10-for-13 from the floor alongside five rebounds, propelling the Huskies to a whopping 19-point win over the Butler Bulldogs, 75-56.
“I liked the fact that he didn’t have a great first half,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said postgame. “He was able to put an okay first half behind him. He wanted the ball, he was very decisive, and he looked like a confident guy that was willing to go down firing tonight.”
It really was a tale of two halves for the entire team, as Connecticut finished the first period down four, shooting less than 29% from the field. In the second, the team shot more than 66%, outscoring their first half by more than double the points, largely thanks to Martin.
One consistency throughout the contest was the play of the big men Adama Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley. Sanogo had a solid first half, but became less involved in the scoring category once Martin started picking up steam. Whaley recorded a double-double, racking up 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting, 10 rebounds and a block. When guards Martin and RJ Cole were struggling early, it was nice to see the bigs stepping up and getting a ton of offensive production.
“With Isaiah, we grabbed him today, he had to get back to being ‘The Wrench. He had to get back to being an impact defender and an impact rebounder, he’s really good in the ball screen game so he just got back to his identity.”Dan Hurley, Head UConn Basketball Coach
Speaking of Cole, the veteran had a bit of an off night, earning just four points and three assists in the game. Things just didn’t seem to fall his way in this one, as his attempts to draw contact and get to the line were fruitless, and his charge attempts were not in his favor. He felt somewhat overshadowed by his primary matchup Aaron Thompson at times, who finished the night with 10 points, three rebounds and five assists.
Another guy with a rough game was freshman Jordan Hawkins. After impressing on Tuesday at home with 14 points, the budding star took a step back with zero points, one rebound and a turnover in just seven minutes. Hurley opted for more of Jalen Gaffney as the guard off the bench, which ended up working out. Gaffney’s plus/minus of 19 was third-best among the Huskies.
This contest marked the second time in three nights that UConn and Butler faced off, with the abnormal home-and-home the result of a rescheduled game due to COVID-19. Coach Hurley expressed his disinterest in this rare opportunity, as it is tough to beat a team twice in one season, let alone twice in three days.
Butler entered the game ranked below the top 100 teams in the country, according to the NET rankings. Technically, this would make the game a Quadrant 3 win for the Huskies, despite being on the road at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Being in the Big East Conference, it’s tough to look at it that way, as there are no easy road wins.
“It’s a conference road game,” Hurley noted. “Anyone that thinks that these are like ‘gimmes,’ look around. Look around college basketball. I would have been thrilled to get out of here winning at the buzzer. It’s hard to win in this league, it’s hard to win twice in three days, especially a team that’s really well-coached.”
With less than 48 hours to prepare for the same team again, the Huskies did a decent job adjusting to what they had learned on Tuesday. In that game, it was Simas Lukosius and Jayden Taylor that combined for 36 points. On Thursday, they collectively had 11.
“Lukosius and Taylor, they destroyed us the other day, almost scored 40 points against a high-level defensive team, so they got a lot more of our attention going into this one,” Hurley said.
Connecticut gets a little bit of a break after this hectic three-day span, heading home to take on Georgetown on Tuesday at Gampel Pavilion.