It’s fair to say there are no sure things in college basketball, especially only after one half. However, when the UConn men’s basketball team went up by 27 points just nine minutes into Wednesday night’s contest, that’s as close as a team may ever get. For reference, the largest blown lead in college basketball this season is 25. The Huskies, fueled by a monstrous start to the game, cruised past DePaul on Wednesday night by a score of 88-59.
It took a couple of minutes for the Huskies to get their shots to fall – they went 0-for-3 to open the contest, but after UConn’s Adama Sanogo and DePaul’s Umoja Gibson traded a pair of buckets two minutes into the game, the Huskies went on an absolute tear, going on a 27-0 run over the course of 8:10. At that point, the student section started to chant “start the buses.”
But for Connecticut, the party had just begun.
“To be able to be up that much early in the game, it definitely gives you a little confidence,” stated guard Andre Jackson postgame.
The Huskies stuck to their brand of basketball, passing around and taking higher percentage looks. The results paid off – by halftime, they shot 57% from the floor and 46% from deep, assisting on 17 of their 21 makes. While typically high-volume passing leads to higher turnover rates, UConn had just three in the stat sheet by the break.
The team’s first-half pace was too much to fully sustain throughout the whole game, but at that point, up by 32, the damage had already been done.
“The first half performance was as good as you could hope for both ends of the court, disruptive defensively and offensively, 17 assists at the half, just an impressive performance,” said UConn head coach Dan Hurley.
Some of the bench guys played larger roles in the second half, including Joey Calcaterra, who added two 3-pointers in the second half to end with nine points. Freshman Donovan Clingan shined as well, going 5-for-8 with 10 points and four rebounds of his own.
It was another night of dominance for big man Sanogo, as the Preseason Big East Player of the Year made his job look all too easy. The conference’s leading scorer added another 26 points, five rebounds and two steals to his impressive resume, going 11-for-14 on the night.
To be able to be up that much early in the game, it definitely gives you a little confidenceUConn guard Andre Jackson
Recently heralded as one of the top glue guys in the country, Jackson brought the energy once again. What was a cold shooting stretch in the middle of the season seems to be far in the rearview mirror now, as the captain nearly finished with a triple double: 11 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. Jackson has his groove once more, and he made DePaul know it on Wednesday night.
“I’m so happy for [Jackson] because he’s the greatest guy you could coach,” said Hurley. “I’m so happy that he’s been in double figures the last three, four games and he’s showing that he’s figured some things out offensively.”
Fellow backcourt member Tristen Newton thrived at the XL Center once more. While he didn’t get a third triple double, Newton was highly efficient, going 5-for-7 for 12 points with six assists and five rebounds. The East Carolina transfer continued to provide for his team in a big way against the Blue Demons.
“I think Tristen’s taken a big step forward in the last couple of game. He’s just been more vocal, more ownership, and I think that’s important,” remarked Hurley postgame.
Sophomore guard Jordan Hawkins had an abnormally quiet night, ending with just three points on one for nine shooting. Towards the end of the game, he appeared to walk off with a limp, but Hurley thinks it’s just a stubbed toe and that Hawkins will be set to practice Thursday. He even joked that he was happy about the performance, that the guard got his bad performance out of the way before tournament time.
Up next for the Huskies is a date with red-hot Villanova squad, winners of six of their last seven contests. However, Connecticut lays claim to the same record over their last seven games as well, giving them plenty of confidence and momentum to get the job done in their regular season finale.
“We’re just feeding off of each other out there, really just pulling our strengths and I think we will continue to build momentum,” remarked Jackson. “We’ve got a big one against Villanova coming up.”
That matchup will take place on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Finneran Pavilion in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The game will be broadcast live on FOX.