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Notes & Quotes: UConn annihilates Providence
The Huskies prevented a PC sweep and made a statement in the process.
Ed Cooley tried to credit $2 Beer Night for UConn’s success, but the Huskies’ blue-collar effort was the real key.
No. 18 UConn pounded the glass and played stellar defense in an 87-69 victory over the No. 20 Friars Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd at Gampel Pavilion. UConn held its second straight opponent to under 40 percent shooting (39.1 percent) and won the boards, 40-20.
Jordan Hawkins led the way with 20 points as four Husky starters posted double figures in scoring. Alex Karaban and Adama Sanogo added 16 apiece and Tristan Newton had 12 for the Huskies (21-7, 10-8 Big East).
Bryce Hopkins led the Friars with 16 points. The blowout loss erased any chance Providence had of winning the Big East regular-season title with just three games to play.
“I think we got our defense back,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “Sometimes when you elevate as high as we did, two in the country, everything is a joy ride and we got away from our identity - rebounding and defense.
“It was a wake-up call and I think we are dialed into those things now.”
After leading 37-32 at the half, the Huskies never surrendered the lead in the final 20 minutes.
Hawkins went out with a leg injury in the second half but returned to a hero’s welcome in what could be his final game at Gampel. The sophomore guard is projected to be a first-round pick in June’s NBA Draft.
“I love being here,” Hawkins said. “I love playing for this team and playing for this state, so it meant a lot.”
What Went Well
They’re Back: A mid-season swoon aside, the Huskies are looking like their early-season days - especially in the second half when they always had an answer for the Friars. Six players had at least seven points, and more importantly, the team was dialed in on loose balls and defensive effort.
Dan Hurley: “To win so convincingly against a team of their quality is just a great send-off to Gampel. Our crowds have just been incredible this year, it’s been years since it’s been like this … and just a great way to close down the building for the year for everybody.”
Beating PC on the boards: The Friars are a highly-ranked rebounding team, but UConn dominated as all five starters grabbed at least five rebounds, led by Karaban with eight. They also held Hopkins without a rebound the entire game.
Hurley: “I was hoping for plus-five versus those guys on the glass. They are men and Ed’s teams in terms of identity, they are hard to be plus against on the backboard.”
Rookie of the Year: Karaban, a freshman, went up against one of the conference’s best in Hopkins and more than held his own in the win. Hurley referred to Karaban as an “NBA player” after the way he defended another probable NBA player in Hopkins.
Hurley: “To kind of play him even in the game is a huge plus. Alex took personal some things after the first game that were commented on in terms of that match-up and how much of a disadvantage it was for us … Alex, the second time against a lot of these four-man match-ups has been better.”
Jordan Hawkins: “AK is a great player, a freshman, doesn’t play like a freshman and Hopkins is probably an NBA player, so he held his own and showed what he could do.”
What Needs Work
Consistent Greatness: The Huskies play two of their final three games on the road and are still a mistake-prone team. They lost at home to St. John’s earlier this season and will want to avenge that in the return meeting, which happens to be in UConn’s second home: Madison Square Garden. After a home game against DePaul, the Huskies end their regular season at Villanova. UConn is projected to win all three of these games, but will all three be wins?
Social Media Highlights
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On Senior Night, guards Tristen Newton, Nahiem Alleyne, and Joey Calcaterra along with forward Richie Springs and team manager Nick DeMarco were honored before the game. … UConn has remained in the top-25 rankings for 15 straight weeks. … Newton and Sanogo are the only Huskies to start every game this season. … Hawkins came in averaging 19.9 points over the last nine games.
Saturday, vs. St, John’s at Madison Square Garden, noon (CBS).