Who knew Huskies could perform in warm weather?
Despite a big road test down south in Gainesville, the UConn men’s basketball team seemed unfazed as they picked up their Division I-leading 10th straight win to start the season, a 75-54 victory over the Florida Gators.
Heading into the game, there was some doubt in the No. 5 Huskies, with ESPN’s projection giving Florida a 63% chance of victory. As hostile and as loud as Exactech Arena was, UConn came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. The Huskies jumped out to a 20-9 lead thanks to a 9-0 run early. Over a span of around seven minutes of play, the Gators were held without a field goal.
Florida started to push back, getting within seven points with 5:25 left to play in the half. Unfortunately for the Gators, the Huskies countered even more, increasing their lead to as high as 15 before ending the half with a score of 36-23. Freshman center Donovan Clingan was integral to their early success, grabbing boards and alley-oop passes down low. The Gators seemed to have no answer for the 7’2” big man, as he was the only player in double-digit scoring heading into the break.
The second half showed more of the same, with Connecticut continuing their stifling defense while attacking the basket. There was yet another stretch of around seven game minutes where Florida was held without a field goal, with their only real success coming at the free throw line.
The Huskies were forceful on defense, stealing the ball nine times and blocking seven shots. The most impressive of the night came from captain Andre Jackson, as the junior came flying in from behind to block Riley Kugel. The loose ball was picked up by Joey Calcaterra, who found Clingan for yet another alley-oop dunk, putting an exclamation point on their 20-point lead. By the end of it all, UConn would take a big 75-54 win back to Storrs.
Clingan was feeling himself all night, as he finished with 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting, eight rebounds and three blocks in just 19 minutes off the bench. At some points during Wednesday’s contests, it seemed as if the game plan was to throw up a lob towards the basket in the hopes that Clingan could find it. Towards the end of the game, the Bristol Central grad even taunted the Florida student section, giving them a mock Gator chomp.
Big East Preseason Player of the Year Adama Sanogo shined as well, putting up a team-high 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting, seven rebounds and a block. His foul trouble kept him off the court for a while, but he was still able to make quite an impact.
Jackson continued to be the leader the Huskies needed, and while he only had eight points on the night, he brought plenty of energy to the court. His team-high eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals stuffed the stat sheet, nothing new for the high-impact guard.
It was a monstrous effort overall for UConn, as the team outrebounded the Gators 42-28. The Huskies allowed just 30.2 percent shooting from the floor while putting up 51.7 percent of their own. This was quite the statement win against a solid Florida opponent. Head coach Dan Hurley applauded the team’s depth postgame as the reason they’ve been so successful thus far.
“We could play any type of game because of the depth. We could play a slow down game, we could play an up-tempo game, we could play big, we could play small. The depth is what makes this whole thing work,” explained Hurley.
The one bright spot for Florida was sophomore Alex Fudge, as the forward put up 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting with five rebounds. Two-time All-SEC forward Colin Castleton added 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting and a team-high eight rebounds.
With the win, the Huskies improved to 5-1 all-time over the Gators, including the 63-53 victory in 2014’s Final Four run. The team improves to 10-0 for the first time since 2010, and will continue their momentum this weekend against LIU on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 12:30 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on FS1.