Before the meeting between the University of Connecticut Huskies and LIU Sharks tipped off at Gampel Pavilion, fans already wondered how big of a blowout this game could be. The notable basketball website KenPom had the score predicted to be 89-52 in favor of the Huskies, a spread of 37 points. Could the No. 5 team do that level of damage to a shorthanded LIU squad that played just seven players?
While that answer was a resounding yes, the game was much more than just an average blowout. Sure, the team won by a score of 114-61, but it truly felt like every possible highlight had occurred for the Huskies. Were you looking for an Andre Jackson dunk show on Saturday? He made it happen in front of celebrities like Aaron Jones, the star running back of the Green Bay Packers. Did you expect a few career high-scoring performances for the Huskies? Look no further than two of the most highly touted freshmen in the Big East, Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan.
In regards to Clingan, he’s shown why he was one of the highest priorities for this UConn staff coming out of Bristol Central High School. He provided some hard interior defense with two blocks and even harder slam dunks. The combination of Clingan and starting big man Adama Sanogo has given the college basketball world plenty to talk about as the talented big men have helped put UConn in a winning position.
“When you play against Adama Sanogo every day since June, you’re gonna improve a lot because he’s playing against one of the best players in the country,” said Hurley on Clingan.
When you add Clingan’s 22 points to a 19-point performance from Karaban, you’re bound to look like one of the best teams in college basketball, even against LIU.
“I thought I played well out there,” said Karaban. “I was really looking forward to this game just to bounce back. I knew I didn’t play well against Oklahoma State or Florida so I wanted to bounce back and get my confidence going into Big East play.”
It was a highlight show indeed, but most importantly, the Huskies came out to continue their momentum ahead of Big East action. As Coach Hurley noted prior to Saturday’s action, they had to minimize turnovers and continue a defensive-focused game plan that has made them one of the most feared teams in the nation. Against the Sharks, the team had five turnovers in the first half and 12 throughout the duration of their win.
While it’s always great to focus on the weaknesses of the Huskies, it’s also important to point out some of the things they did well, and their playmaking to get players open on the court was second to none. It felt like poetry in motion as the ball circulated the court to find guys open and by the end of the night, the team had 29 assists to recognize one of their incredible positives in an afternoon full of them.
Even with one of the biggest blowouts in program history, Hurley believes the team has yet to reach its full potential.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best yet,” said Hurley.
With the blowout, the Huskies finish undefeated in non-conference action for the first time since the 2010-11 college basketball season, a series of games which ended with the Huskies on top of the collegiate world with a National Championship. If there’s anything for certain, this is not only one of the strongest college basketball teams in the nation, but also one of the strongest UConn teams in its history and they’re ready to show that.
“The Big East right now is doing pretty well. We just gotta come in with the same mindset that we came in with during our first 11 games,” said Clingan.
Conference play starts in one week, with the Huskies taking on the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 17. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on FS1.