It was a slow start to the game, but when the final horn sounded, it turned out to be another blowout victory.
Before tipoff even began, UConn was expected to get a burst of talent added back to the rotation. That extra boost came in the form of guards Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson. Hawkins was expected to give the Huskies an incredible scoring boost and with his shooting on Friday, that expectation became a reality.
He ended the night with 20 points and simply looked unstoppable from beyond the arc with 5-8 shooting. His shot is certainly enough to win this team plenty of games and it was a big part of Friday’s victory. With Jackson, he brought the full package. Whether it was a dive for a loose ball or a beautiful dime to one of his teammates, it was certainly felt during Friday’s victory.
“It was great to have Hawk and J back,” said UConn head coach Dan Hurley.
Jackson simply didn’t look tired at all. He would dive for a loose ball. He’d run the court with ease. It was a level of play that reflected his team-first attitude, even if he couldn’t be on the court for a full 40 minutes.
“I wanted to play the whole game. I wasn’t expecting anything,” said Jackson.
With both players back in the lineup, it felt unordinary to see the Seahawks get out to a 7-2 lead early and stay close with a No. 25 ranked Huskies lineup. However, they did just that until late in the first half when UConn’s offense really began to click, specifically Hawkins. Within the final 6 minutes, Hawkins had 9 points, including a pair of 3-point shots. His scoring gave the team plenty of momentum going into the second half.
That momentum continued for the Huskies as they continued to pull away. Whether it was a 3-pointer by Alex Karaban or a layup by Tristen Newton, the Huskies looked like they were clicking on all cylinders. In the end, UConn shot 54% from the field, including 10-22 from the 3-point line.
With a performance like Friday, Hawkins believes the team’s ceiling is even higher.
“I think we can take this program to the next level,” said Hawkins.
The words of the young sophomore guard reflected in what would be an even more dominant performance just two days later.
UConn: 95; Del. State: 60
Unlike Friday’s outcome, this game felt out of reach from the start. With some key injuries for the Delaware State Hornets, the Huskies looked in tune throughout the game, especially Adama Sanogo.
The big man had 26 points, including a 3-pointer. That area of his game has been in development since the offseason, but coach Hurley believes that Sanogo should have taken more advantage of that aspect of his skillset.
“I thought he had a chance to launch another one. He’s gonna shoot it, especially when he plays against these bigger centers. He loves the top of the key. That’s a great spot for him when we play five out with him,” said Hurley.
It felt like a big man takeover in this one. Along with the dominance of Sanogo, Donovan Clingan showed that he will be the big man of the future for the Huskies with 16 points in 16 minutes. While Clingan ended the night with three blocks, he’s looking to get even better on the defensive end.
“Ball screen defense, blocking more shots. I guess I could say I’m happy, but I need to do better,” said Clingan.
The mentorship that Sanogo has shown to Clingan has truly shown in the results on the court as both big men put up great numbers on the stat sheet. Clingan expressed that if he sees something that Sanogo can fix in his game, he’ll point that out. Each player pushes each other to be the best possible player they can be.
While both big men dominated in their own respective way, UConn’s guard duo of Jackson and Hawkins have begun to get back into a rhythm. For Jackson, the concern for Hurley was getting the UConn guard back into a rhythm with plenty of minutes and cardio. Rather than start Jackson, Hurley opted to have Jackson as a sixth man.
Jackson’s presence alone on the court has reinvigorated more toughness with the Huskies, even if that’s a task as simple as diving for a loose ball.
For Hawkins, while he hasn’t had much time to adjust, Hurley believes that the more time that he gets on the court against high level competition, especially with the team’s upcoming road trip versus Oregon, he’ll get back to his full potential.
“We need him to show up on the perimeter big for us in these big games we’re about to play. The next 25 of 26 games are going to be very high level games,” said Hurley.
With players like Joey Calcaterra coming into their own with a great scoring performance and showing the true depth of the team, the Huskies are in great shape heading into their upcoming road trip against Oregon. While there’s certainly some issues to fix as the team gets closer to Big East play, they’ve shown that they can contest with anyone.