MBB: No. 19 UConn looks for revenge against No. 13 Xavier

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UConn men’s basketball closed their losing streak with their win against Butler at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. on Jan. 22, 2023. Jordan Hawkins was the highest scorer with 20 points. Photo by Skyler Kim, The Daily Campus.

Back on Dec. 31, UConn men’s basketball fans were elated as they watched their undefeated team journey to the Cintas Center — one of the toughest places to play in Big East basketball — to take on Xavier. What they wouldn’t know until after the final buzzer sounded was that this would be the first loss of the season for the then-No. 2 ranked Huskies and the start of a stretch of poor play. 

Fast forward nearly a month later and UConn will now have the opportunity for a revenge game, this time in front of their own fans in the confines of Gampel Pavillion. They’re fresh off a blowout win against Butler, 30 points to be exact, where things just looked right for UConn. Energetic defense. Shots falling. Players like guard Hassan Diarra looked like the pieces that coach Dan Hurley sought out when scouting the transfer portal. 

Now, they’ll have to do it again, this time against an even tougher opponent. While the team was surprisingly upset by a below .500 DePaul roster, Xavier still puts up a strong fight against any team in the Big East. If you take a look at their roster, you’ll see why. Do you need strong guard play? You’ve got Souley Boum, not only one of the top guards in the Big East but all of college basketball. What about the front court? Jack Nunge and Zack Freemantle will continue to get the job done. Both were notably very strong against the Huskies in the last matchup between these two teams, with Nunge noticeably battling the flu and still dropping 15 points in 24 minutes of action. 

What’s the major thing I’m trying to say here? This team is tough, and if I’m coach Dan Hurley, that’s exactly what I’m looking for out of my roster on Wednesday in front of the home crowd. You need the hard-nosed defense that pushed the Huskies to become undefeated. You need to be aggressive on offense, yet not force your shots. To win against the Musketeers, the Huskies need smart basketball on both ends of the court. 

In terms of Big East standings, this game is huge. If the Huskies manage to pull off a win on Wednesday, Xavier drops to 8-2, tying them with Marquette for first in the conference. But, if UConn drops this one to a tough Musketeers squad, they’ll drop to 5-6 and sixth in the Big East in what seemed like an impossible outcome when the team last faced Xavier just under a month ago. 

This is the test you need for your players. The Huskies need to learn from their mistakes and play their brand of basketball. Xavier coach Sean Miller isn’t going to make this one easy for UConn, and if the Huskies show that they step up to the challenge, it’s going to be the perfect motivation this team needs to continue playing well. 

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