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Notes & Quotes: Letdown in the Big East semis, again
The Huskies didn't play poorly but they also didn't make enough plays at the end to win.
UConn fought a 40-minute battle Friday night in Madison Square Garden but came up short against top-seeded Marquette, 70-68. This is the third straight year the Huskies have exited the Big East Tournament in the semifinals.
“Three pretty excruciating losses…we were hell-bent on playing in the finals tomorrow,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said.
The Golden Eagles (27-6) advance to play Xavier for the league title.
After a back-and-forth first half that featured eight lead changes ended in a tie at 38, Marquette pulled ahead early in the second half. UConn tied it two more times after that, but Marquette had an answer every time. To make matters worse, Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson dealt with foul trouble while Jordan Hawkins had an off-shooting night.
Adama Sanogo scored 19 points with 11 rebounds for the 4-seeded Huskies (25-8), who head home to await their NCAA Tournament destination on Sunday. Karaban and Nahiem Alleyne added 10 points apiece. Tyler Kolek and David Joplin led Marquette with 17 points each and hit six threes between them, one less than all of UConn.
What Went Well
Going the Distance: Regardless of Hawkins’ struggles and the others’ foul trouble, the Huskies held the larger lead in the first half that ended tied and were in there at the end despite down performances from their best players. They came back from down 10 in the second half to tie the game.
Alex Karaban: “I'm more than confident in our team. We came into this being one of the hottest teams in the country. We're not going to let one game set us back.”
Sanogo & Co. Adama Sanogo kept UConn in this game for large stretches along with a strong day from the bench. While Hawkins and Jackson combined for seven points in the game, Donovan Clingan, Joey Calcaterra, and Nahiem Alleyne each had seven or more.
Hurley: “Without Joey and Nahiem, we're not getting a sniff of it late…Donovan's second-half minutes were much better…The bench is a big part of how we've been able to get to the season we've had.”
They Didn’t Suck. With 25 bench points and a +10 rebounding advantage, while shooting 44% from the field with nine turnovers, and Sanogo playing well, UConn’s overall performance wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good enough against a really good opponent, one that’s ranked sixth in the country. If one more shot — or a few more free throws — go in, the Huskies are celebrating a victory and eyeing a Big East crown.
Hurley: “I thought we had chances to take the lead and surge ahead. Just didn't make the shots.”
What Needs Work
Marquette Makes the Statement: Hurley and UConn fans can proclaim the Huskies “own MSG” but they haven’t made a tournament final since rejoining. Dan Hurley’s Huskies need to work on building their own legacy. Their top players have run out of magic in March. In this game, the Huskies hit just 28% (7-25) from three and 60% (9-15) from the charity stripe. Their final chance to tie it was a sub-optimal look.
Marquette head coach Shaka Smart: “UConn is a terrific team on both ends of the floor. They had some advantages relative to us with their size, strength, girth, offensive rebounding…Down the stretch, I believe we had five -- at least four, but I believe we had five straight stops in a row, and that's what we needed to win it.”
Lead Guard Struggles: After tying the game at 60 with 9:26 to play on a Joey Calcaterra 3-pointer, the Huskies made just 3 of 13 shots from the field the rest of the way. Jackson fouled out and Hawkins finished 2-11 on the night (1-8 from three).
Hurley: “To have [Jackson] as a non-factor with the foul trouble, that hurt…He's the heart and soul of the team and one of our best players…credit Marquette. The defense was excellent. They were really physical.”
The Huskies were competitive in the first half and came back from an early second-half deficit but faltered late.
Earlier Friday, Sanogo was named one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award, the second consecutive year Sanogo has been a finalist. Also on the list from the Big East is Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner. … After coming off the bench in the quarterfinals, Newton was back in the starting lineup. … UConn has lost in the semifinals in its previous two tournament appearances since rejoining the Big East. Creighton beat the Huskies in 2021 and Villanova knocked them out last season.
NCAA Tournament, TBA
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