Men’s Basketball: No. 5 Huskies swim with Sharks in matchup with LIU 

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UConn men’s basketball defeat UNC Wilmington 86-50 on a Friday night at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. on Nov. 18, 2022. The Huskies’ sophomore Jordan Hawkins and Junior Andre Jackson Jr. each returned to the lineup, both contributing to the win with Hawkins snagging a career-high 20 points and Jackson Jr. setting a energetic and fierce tone on the court, while dishing out 5 assists. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/Daily Campus.

After jumping out to a dominant 10-0 start to the year capped off by a strong road win at Florida, the No. 5 UConn men’s basketball team returns to Gampel Pavilion on Saturday afternoon to take on Long Island University. 

The Huskies have been through the gauntlet, taking on five top-52 teams (according to the KenPom ratings) and coming out still undefeated. Their string of massive wins has led many metrics to update Connecticut from a top-30 team in the country to one of the nation’s best. In the first NET rankings of the year, UConn landed at No. 2, and after Wednesday’s win, they fall in that same spot in the KenPom ratings. Even in ESPN’s very early bracketology, the Huskies are projected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

A large part of that success comes from captain Andre Jackson. While sitting the first few games out due to a pinky finger injury, Jackson has made quite the impact on the court. He isn’t a top-scoring threat, but his two threes in the win over Florida pushed the Huskies on to extend their lead. Jackson’s energy level is through the roof, and he’s always one to dive after loose balls, come flying in for a chase down block or help up his teammate after they fall. 

Another major factor in the team’s hot start is sophomore Jordan Hawkins. While the guard registered only 5.8 points per game in his freshman campaign, Hawkins has bumped that number up to 13.5, impressive considering the number of scoring options on any given night with this squad. His three-point shooting has been as good as promised, as he’s nailed at least three shots from beyond the arc in five of his seven full games played. 

The reality with this team is that any player could be listed here: Big East Preseason Player of the Year Adama Sanogo, Alex Karaban, Donovan Clingan and transfer Joey Calcaterra to name a few. The reason this team has been outperforming preseason expectations is their depth. When Hawkins or Sanogo has an off-night shooting, the rest of the team is there to pick up the slack.  

Currently, head coach Dan Hurley has employed a rotation of nine different guys receiving significant minutes, with that number sure to increase to 10 when opening night’s starting forward Samson Johnson returns from a foot injury. While last year you could expect big games from a few big names — R.J. Cole, Tyrese Martin or Sanogo — this year is a lot more unpredictable, making it tough for opposing teams to prep for games. 

UConn men’s basketball defeat UNC Wilmington 86-50 on a Friday night at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. on Nov. 18, 2022. The Huskies’ sophomore Jordan Hawkins and Junior Andre Jackson Jr. each returned to the lineup, both contributing to the win with Hawkins snagging a career-high 20 points and Jackson Jr. setting a energetic and fierce tone on the court, while dishing out 5 assists. Photo by Sofia Sawchuk/Daily Campus.

The Sharks (1-7) have gotten off to quite the miserable start to the year, dropping all seven games against Division I opponents by double figures. This bodes particularly well for the Huskies, who are currently the only undefeated team in the country to win every game by double digits, and look to keep that streak alive on Saturday.  

LIU’s lone win was a 111-50 rout with Division III Mount Saint Vincent in their home opener. Winnable, neutral-site matchups with South Dakota and Northern Illinois turned into blowouts over Feast Week, and the KenPom ratings have the Sharks near the bottom of the barrel of Division I basketball, currently sitting at No. 352 out of 363 qualified teams.  

Historically, UConn and LIU have squared off just once, last year at Gampel Pavilion. The 93-40 final may not be memorable, but some fans may recall that November game as the night when cult favorite and Daily Campus alum Matt Garry scored his first and only Division I points, draining two free throws late in the contest. 

Tip-off is set for 12:30 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. The game will be broadcast live on FS1. For fans attending the game, there will be an opportunity to visit the Denis and Britta Nayden Hall of Champions for the first time in three years. Doors will open two hours prior to tip-off and will close 90 minutes after that. 

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