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Notes & Quotes: UConn falls to Xavier
The Huskies were down big early and made it a contest, but needed to execute better.
STORRS, Conn. - UConn men’s basketball is in free-fall, and shooting itself in the foot along the way.
Down two with two seconds left, Tristen Newton hit his first foul shot and tried to miss his second - but it went in. He was on the line after UConn failed to attempt a three-pointer that could have tied the game with time winding down.
It was that kind of night the 19th-ranked Huskies in an 82-79 loss to No. 13 Xavier on Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd at Gampel Pavilion. It started off poorly, got worse, and even though the Huskies recovered they couldn’t complete a comeback bid.
However, missing out on a putback opportunity on a missed free throw in the waning seconds wasn’t what cost the Huskies (16-6, 5-6 Big East). UConn lost for the sixth time in the last eight games after essentially giving it away in the first half.
“It was just a really, really tough loss for us,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.
The Musketeers (17-4, 9-1) came into a hostile environment and dominated play at both ends from tip-off. They had a 9-0 start on their way to a 39-24 halftime lead.
Despite a deficit as big as 17, the Huskies got within one point four times in the second half. Jordan Hawkins scored 28 points, Newton added 23, and Adama Sanogo finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Solely Boum led Xavier with 21 points, Colby Jones added 20, and Jack Nunge 12. Xavier shot 53.4 percent overall.
WHAT WENT WELL
FIGHTING BACK: Gampel should have been emptying out by the midway point of the second half, but the Huskies didn’t surrender. Hawkins scored 26 second-half points and Newton had his most complete performance of the season. Hawkins’ 3-pointer on a 26-11 UConn run cut the deficit to 56-54 with 12:13 to play. Xavier built the lead right back to double-digits within three minutes, and UConn closed in again, down to two multiple times and even one near the end.
Dan Hurley: “The huddles in the first half were like disbelief that we could play that poorly in this building. Then the second-half team, we might have won every four-minute war in the second half or close to it. That second-half team was just that team I love to coach. It’s a team with spirit, fighting spirit, and guts to make big shots and plays all over the court.”
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Defense: The Huskies opened the game playing man-to-man, but had no way to stop the Musketeers - especially Boum and Jones. Xavier made 16 of 32 shots from the field and 5 of 11 from 3-point range. It got so bad that Hurley went to a zone to stop the bleeding. UConn was also pressing in the second half.
Hurley: “I don’t know what they shot against our man defense. If we had stayed in man they might have shot 70 percent. Zone has to be something that we use to disrupt rhythm, but if we can’t get our man defense fixed - teams that play exculsive zone aren’t doing to well right now.”
Discipline: Andre Jackson had a rough offensive night, shooting 0-for-8 in the first half and 3 of 12 for the game. He took seven shots in the first four minutes, missing them all. The Huskies’ shot selection was not sharp and they also struggled in situations with the shot clock or game clock winding down, which has been a pattern.
Hurley: “When they do that to you obviously you can drive the ball, and if the defender that’s playing real soft on you … you can eat up some of that real estate, pick your way to the paint and find some way to the rim.”
Finding Victory: Despite the win over Butler on Sunday, the Huskies look nowhere near the team that dominated teams the first two months of the season. They now have nine games to find their mojo before going to MSG for the Big East tournament. Against Seton Hall, they let a game that they should have won slip away. This time, they could have won a game that they should have lost, but just ended up losing by less. Avoiding embarrassment is good, but this UConn team needs league wins.
Jordan Hawkins: “We have to regroup, take what we did in the second half, watch the film … practice and be ready for the next nine games.
UConn once again started Newton, Hawkins, Alex Karaban, Sanogo, and Jackson. The Huskies are 8-6 with that starting combination. … Xavier now leads the series 4 -3. UConn won its only other home meeting, with a 72-61 victory on Feb. 19, 2022 at Gampel. … Xavier is off to its best start in Big East history at 9-1. The Musketeers joined the conference before the 2013-14 season. … The Huskies hit the road for three of their next four games. The next home date is against Marquette on Feb. 7 at the XL Center in Hartford.
At DePaul, Tuesday, 8 p.m. (FS1)