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Notes & Quotes: UConn soars through the Sweet 16
The Huskies had no trouble dispatching Arkansas to advance to the West regional final.
Photo Credit: Twitter - @UConnMBB
The UConn Huskies are getting better with each passing round.
Dan Hurley’s squad torched Arkansas, 88-65, in their Sweet 16 matchup. It was the program's largest victory ever in a regional semifinal.
They showed no mercy, holding the 8-seeded Razorbacks to 32 percent shooting from the field and dominating the boards, 43-31, while shooting 57 percent from the field themselves in a game where they never trailed.
“We just played pretty much exactly to our team identity,” head coach Dan Hurley said. “We played elite defense. On offense, the 22 assists, the inside, the outside, and the rebounding dominance…we’re thrilled to play one more to the Final Four.”
Jordan Hawkins led the way with 24 points, attacking the rim when his shot wasn’t falling early. Adama Sanogo was also assertive, with 18 points and eight rebounds and Alex Karaban added 11 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting night while pulling down seven boards.
Nahiem Alleyne chipped in 10 points off the bench, while Andre Jackson tallied seven points, eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. UConn dominated in the paint with a 42-24 scoring edge.
“From the opening tip they came out with a greater sense of urgency,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said. “They cut hard. They crashed the offensive boards, especially early in the game…did a great job rebounding.”
What Went Well
Taking Charge: UConn scored first and never let that lead go. A 14-0 surge which led to a 31-17 lead in the first half put this out of reach early for Arkansas, who had no answer for Sanogo inside and couldn’t keep pace with UConn on the glass. The Huskies held a 22-9 edge on the boards after 20 minutes.
Jordan Hawkins: “We knew we had to come out real fast on them. They’re a physical team but we had to come out with the first punch…We just jumped out early and just continued playing physically.”
Dan Hurley: “Our plan was to…make them shoot perimeter shots, tough 2s, middies, and make them shoot 3s, which is a little bit different than what we try to do defensively…Kimani crushed it with the scout, and we just got in the gaps and made them kind of one-dimensional.”
Devoured the Glass: The Huskies came into the game ranked third in the nation in rebound margin (plus-9.3) and eighth in offensive rebounds (13.1). They lived up to that billing, especially in the first half. Arkansas scored 11 points on 13 offensive boards in the second half, but the game was a blowout at that point.
Adama Sanogo: “Coach Hurley was saying this team is tough, they want to try to box us out…They wanted to play tough but we were going to tough them out.”
Sharing the Wealth: Jackson and Tristen Newton each posted seven assists and the Huskies finished with 22 on 31 made shots. At halftime, all five starters had six points or more. There were many beautiful plays, including Sanogo’s behind-the-back bounce pass to Jackson for an easy dunk at 5:55 of the first half, or Karaban’s football pass to Jackson, who lobbed it to Donovan Clingan for an alley-oop.
Dan Hurley: “We were really sharp, our passing was sharp. I thought we just had a great mix of creating openings for our shooters and feeding Adama and Donovan in the ball-screen game.”
Having it All: Not much was missing from the Huskies’ game today. Sanogo and Donovan Clingan were beasts inside, UConn went a solid 9 of 20 on 3-pointers, and the defense held Arkansas to 31.7 percent shooting.
Eric Musselman: “I thought their offense was just as effective as their defense which their metrics tell you is they are really good on both sides of the basketball.”
What Needs Work
Keep Calm: Hard to find any faults in this one, but Jackson’s technical in the second half was unnecessary. The Huskies can’t let the little things rattle them going forward. They also had a stretch with three consecutive turnovers before that which led to a 10-0 run with the tech.
Arkansas never had a chance.
The 23-point victory is the largest by a Sweet 16 team since 2018 (Michigan plus-27 against Texas A&M) … UConn is also ranked sixth in assists per game (17.5) and seventh in scoring margin (plus-13.7) nationally. … This is the Huskies’ 36th trip to the NCAA Tournament; they are now 62-31 all-time. … UConn’s last loss in the Sweet 16 was in 2003, falling to Texas, 82-78. … This is the eighth time UConn has been sent to the West Region, with three trips resulting in national titles (1999, 2004, 2011). … UConn won its fourth title, in 2014, out of the East Regional. … Sanogo, Samson Johnson, and Hassan Diarra were playing while fasting in observance of Ramadan.
Saturday, March 25 vs. No. 3 Gonzaga, 8:49 tip-off in Las Vegas (TBS)
UConn is up to 3rd in KenPom and Gonzaga is ranked 6th; the site projects an 80-77 UConn win and a 59% chance of a Husky victory.
Webster’s giving away a trip for two to the men’s college hoops finals in Houston, TX, April 1-3. For a chance to win, just fill out your Big Goals Bracket!
No purchase necessary. Ends 3/25.