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Notes & Quotes: UConn earns a much-needed win over Creighton
The Huskies had to battle throughout but the team's leaders stepped up in key moments.
Adama Sanogo did what team leaders do: He made sure the Huskies won this game.
The UConn big man turned in a dominant 26-point performance on 10-of-20 shooting, including two threes, with nine rebounds in a 69-60 victory over Creighton in front of a sellout crowd at Gampel Pavilion.
The fourth-ranked Huskies (15-2, 4-2 Big East) snapped a two-game skid and won the program’s first game ever against Creighton in six tries. Jordan Hawkins added 17 points and Tristen Newton added 13 on a day where the Huskies got just four points from their bench, all from Donovan Clingan.
Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner made some comments to The Field of 68 podcast after Sanogo was named the preseason Big East Player of the Year. But it was Sanogo who won got the first word on the court between the big men this season — Kalkbrenner had nine points and four rebounds while also getting into foul trouble in the first half.
“Coming into this game he was saying some stuff, and if you know me, I take stuff personal,” Sanogo said. “Coming into this game I was ready to go.”
The Huskies watched the clip from Kalkbrenner on Friday.
“For us, we don’t want our players talking negatively about other teams or other programs,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “It bothered Adama, it bothered everyone…we don’t want our guys to build a name for themselves speaking negatively about others.”
After losing to then-No. 22 Xavier and Providence this past week, the Huskies relied on Sanogo, Hawkins, and stout defense down the stretch to grind out a victory.
“I think we did a good job on the defensive end, but we still have problems with fifty-fifty balls and gathering rebounds,” said junior Andre Jackson, who added seven points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Sanogo had 14 points in the first half to help build a 37-29 halftime lead. Hawkins chipped in with 11 of his 17. The two came up big late in the second half as well, as did Newton. Sanogo scored six straight at one point and eight consecutive Husky points to help put the game away.
Creighton turned the ball over 13 times while the Huskies took better care of the ball, giving it up just five times. The three-pointer also boosted UConn, which hit 8-of-24 (33%) attempts from beyond the arc while Creighton hit just 2-of-16.
Arthur Kaluma led the Bluejays (9-7, 3-2) with 14 points, while Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman each added 11.
Back to Basics: In another Big East battle, the Husky defense shined, holding Creighton to 32.8 percent shooting from the field (20-for-61) and just two threes. It’s the fewest points the Huskies have allowed since the 68-46 conference opener against Butler.
Jordan Hawkins: “The two-game losing streak opened our eyes and we just had to regroup. We had to remind ourselves what got us here the first 14 games and I think that’s what we did as a team.”
Sanogo Leads the Way: After being a bit quiet in two losses, Sanogo was locked in for this one. He led the team to a first-half lead and also helped get Kalkbrenner into foul trouble, causing him to sit the final 6:09 of the first half. He also gave the Huskies the push they needed late in the second half to close out the win.
Dan Hurley: “Number one he’s coming over to you and telling you what he wants to do on offense. The plays he wants called for him and it’s like ‘Yes, Adama.’ He’s been seething the last couple days. The will of that man, it’s like poke a Koala bear … or a Teddy bear, but poking a grizzly or Kodiak bear - that’s the wrong guy to poke.”
Andre Jackson: “ He’s a very competitive person, I’ve seen it since I got here.”
Glass Work: In addition to defense, pounding the glass is a huge part of Hurley’s philosophy. The Huskies fell way short there, losing the rebound battle 49-34 overall and 20-9 on the offensive end. The Bluejays managed 14 points on the offensive glass and 28 points in the paint.
Hurley: “The issues we’ve had on the backboard, which has never been an issue until really this last four-game stretch (is a concern).”
The Bench. Donovan Clingan’s four points represented all of UConn’s bench scoring. Though he played a solid 16 minutes, especially as a defender, Hassan Diarra didn’t score. Joey Calcaterra and Nahiem Alleyne also couldn’t find a point in 20 combined minutes.
The last time UConn dropped three straight was the 2019-20 season when it lost at Villanova, at Houston, and home against Tulsa over an eight-day stretch in early January. The Huskies had three- and five-game losing skids under Hurley in his first season. … Samson Johnson (right foot) remains out of the lineup but could return to basketball activities this week. … Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes was in the crowd along with former Husky Terrence Samuel, who was on the 2014 national championship team.
Wednesday at Marquette, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)