The UConn Huskies took a visit to Omaha this Saturday to play the Creighton Bluejays in a crucial matchup to determine both teams’ postseason hopes. With the regular season winding down, both teams looked to capture a spot in the Big East tournament with a victory.
Scoring started early as UConn took the lead in the fourth minute of the game. Sophomore Nicolas Tomerius centered the ball to set up teammate Pierce Bateson with a great opportunity in front of the goal, an opportunity that Bateson fired into the left post and then the net. The early score from Bateson marked his third goal of the season and his first since the team took on St. John’s in mid-September.
Working from behind, the Bluejays attempted to respond quickly. In the ninth minute, Creighton put pressure on UConn with a shot from outside the box. Huskies goalie Jayden Hibbert completely laid out, diving to his left to prevent the goal. Hibbert went on to collect four total saves on the day, keeping Creighton under control.
UConn struck again in the first half, this time from their leading goal scorer Scott Testori. In the 36th minute, freshman Ayoub Lajhar wound up for a shot, but the ball was kicked away from him. As it bounced away, Testori came in and kicked the ball right into the same post that Bateson hit earlier. Just like Bateson’s shot, Testori’s ball hit the post and landed into the net, doubling the Huskies’ lead. It was the Connecticut native’s fourth goal in his last three games and his seventh overall for the year.
After halftime, Creighton came out hungry. The Bluejays outshot the Huskies 12-2 in the second half while maintaining the majority of the possession. Despite the discrepancy in shots for the game (19 to 9 in favor of Creighton), it was UConn that had more shots on goal with 5 to 4. Hibbert played a tremendous game, making yet another incredible save to add to his impressive resume this season in the 75th minute as Creighton failed to get anything past him, handing UConn a solid 2-0 win on the road.
Head coach Chris Gbandi was rightfully impressed with his team’s performance against a good Big East opponent. “[I] thought we did a great job, obviously first half creating some chances and putting those chances away. And then second half defensively we were solid,” he said after the game.
The win gives UConn their eighth of the year and their fourth in conference play, landing them a spot in the 2023 Big East tournament that will take place in early November. It’s the first time since rejoining the Big East in 2020 that UConn will play in the tournament.
Since the Big East added Akron as an affiliate member of the conference this season, the tournament added two more slots to the bracket to expand the field to eight teams. Akron’s addition also resulted in split divisions in which the top seeds of each division would automatically secure the top two seeds, with the remaining teams being determined by conference points. After this weekend, Georgetown leads the East with 16 points and UConn’s next opponent, Xavier, leads the Midwest with 12.
In 2022, Coach Gbandi’s first season, UConn barely missed out as they finished as the seventh seed in the conference. Creighton actually finished as the sixth seed and went on a run, taking down Georgetown in the championship final to win the 2022 Big East tournament. Now, UConn gets their first shot under Gbandi to make a run like the Bluejays did.
UConn will look to carry this momentum into the regular season finale against the Xavier Musketeers. Xavier comes into the match having tied four of their last five opponents, including three ties against Big East schools. The Musketeers are 3-1-3 in conference play and will look to lock down the number two seed in the tournament with a win in Storrs. UConn has lost their only two matches against the Musketeers in school history, including a 1-0 loss in Cincinnati last October.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium this Saturday. The theme of the game is Senior Night. If you are unable to attend the match on Saturday, it will also be streamed on FloSports.