Men’s Basketball: UConn returns to action against Stonehill

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11-2-2022 MBB Blue v White by Izzi Barton, Staff Photographer UConn Men’s Basketball play a Blue vs. White scrimmage for the public on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Gampel Pavilion. The Men’s first home game of the season is at the XL Center in Hartford on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, at 7:30 p.m.

STORRS, Conn. – When asked about the team’s toughness prior to Monday’s matchup against Stonehill College, University of Connecticut coach Dan Hurley was not pleased in the slightest. 

“Not really,” said Hurley when asked if the team’s toughness has increased over the past few team practices. “I’m hopeful. We’re running out of time. The biggest things are when you have so many new people and I’m mostly worried about our huddles.” 

With R.J. Cole, Tyrese Martin, Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polley all gone from the team, the Huskies have looked for that player who is going to step up as a leader and bring the team back together, especially if they’re struggling. Due to Andre Jackson’s recent injury, the team needs an additional leader more than ever and that’s one of the biggest things to look out for in Monday’s first game against the Skyhawks. 

Taking a look at Stonehill, this will be their first game as a division one program after joining the Northeast Conference during the offseason. With that rise in competition comes tough battles and if there’s ever a challenge for the Skyhawks, it’s going to be stopping this Huskies roster, a lineup of new transfers and freshmen determined to make an impact.  

Two guys to watch out for in this matchup are Andrew Sims and Isaiah Burnett, the team’s two major offensive weapons who could give the Huskies some problems with their offensive skillset. The Skyhawks are an older lineup with plenty of experience throughout the roster. 

Despite this test for Stonehill, the team has expressed that battles against programs like UConn are exactly what they’re looking for. 

“Whether it’s UConn, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac, or Merrimack, we’re gonna go play. We’re gonna compete. We’re gonna try and give everything we have for 40 minutes,” said Stonehill coach Chris Kraus. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge of all for the Skyhawks will be stopping UConn center Adama Sanogo, one of the top big men in all of college basketball. The height difference is certainly a problem for Stonehill as the team’s tallest player stands at just 6’8”. That’s certainly been a factor that UConn has seen during their scouting and forward Alex Karaban said the team is prepared for the incoming traps against Sanogo.  

“We’re just gonna do what we normally do. It’s not just the height difference with Adama. Everyone knows who Adama Sanogo is. He’s going to come prepared with those traps and all those defenses that teams are going to throw at him,” said Karaban. 

11-2-2022 MBB Blue v White by Izzi Barton, Staff Photographer UConn Men’s Basketball play a Blue vs. White scrimmage for the public on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Gampel Pavilion. The Men’s first home game of the season is at the XL Center in Hartford on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, at 7:30 p.m.

The former IMG Academy player will have his own opportunity to make an impact for UConn after spending the 2022 spring semester training with the team and learning under veteran big men like Whaley and Polley. Karaban expressed what he believes his role will look like ahead of Monday’s game. 

“I think my role on the team is going to be to make the open shot for us, space out the floor for Adama, use my IQ and my passing ability to hit it into him, and also rebounding the ball toughly,” said Karaban.  

Along with Karaban making his debut, the starting point guard battle has been entertaining between Tristen Newton and Hassan Diarra. Newton expressed being grateful for how Diarra has challenged him on both sides of the court with his crafty offense and relentless defense. Whether Newton or Diarra starts on Monday, both players should be solid weapons for the team. 

To stop this team, coach Hurley says the team will need to overwhelm them with athleticism, length, and discipline. He cited that if the Huskies don’t come ready to play great defense against the Skyhawks, they’ll be in for trouble, similar to the team’s matchups against Maryland Eastern Shore and Binghamton University last year.  

With the first look at the Huskies this season in an evening matchup at the XL Center, it’s sure to be a fun one in Hartford. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. and can be televised on Fox Sports 1.  

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