Notes & Quotes: UConn tops Saint Mary's, on to the Sweet 16
The Huskies went to Adama Sanogo early and often in what turned out to be another comfortable NCAA Tournament win.
The UConn Huskies are winning big and doing it with style, even if the first halves have been tight in the first two games.
Adama Sanogo scored 24 points with eight rebounds to lead fourth-seeded UConn over No. 5 Saint Mary’s 70-55 in the Round of 32 on Sunday at the MVP Arena in Albany, N.Y.
Once again, a tough first half challenged the Huskies (27-8) but they persevered and came out with a big win by the end. They advance to play 8-seed Arkansas in the semifinals of the West Region on Thursday in Las Vegas.
“The last two games in the second half, we just took off,” Jordan Hawkins said. “When we're playing like that, I think we have a really good chance to win it all.”
Three of UConn’s national titles have come through the West Region (1999, 2004, 2011) and a fourth trip ended in the Final Four (2009).
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Tristen Newton's 3-pointer at the end of the opening half gave UConn a 31-30 lead at the break. Newton had 13 points for the Huskies, while Jordan Hawkins scored 12 points, all in the second half.
Saint Mary’s, which held its last lead (38-37) at 16:04 of the second half, did not have a double-digit scorer.
What Went Well
Sanogo Soaring: For the second straight game, Sanogo was the best player on the floor, especially in the second half with 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting. In two NCAA games, Sanogo is 24-for-33 from the field with 21 rebounds and 52 points.
Adama Sanogo: “I think going into the game, I was thinking for us to win, I have to be at my best. That’s why today I was ready to do something positive, if it was scoring or something else.”
Sweet Home Albany: Andre Jackson certainly enjoyed playing close to home. In two games, the junior combined for 16 points, 11 rebounds, 14 assists, and just three turnovers in 71 minutes while playing aggressive defense and guiding the offense. Plus, Jackson is in an offensive rhythm with shooting too where he’s not forcing it.
Jackson: “We all knew our identity, we all knew our roles, and we all knew what we had to do to win a game.”
Sharing the Wealth: Eight players made at least one field goal as once again the Husky depth was key. But it was more than at the offensive end. Whether Donovan Clingan was a disruptor in the paint, or Joey Calcaterra was drawing charges, or the perimeter defense of Alleyne and Diarra, the Huskies’ depth gave them a boost, even if they didn’t pop off the stat sheet.
Jackson: “We have so many guys we can go to. No matter if somebody has an off-day or an off-game, somebody is going to step up in those shoes and be ready for the big moment.”
Hawkins: “I said from the beginning I think our depth is going to win a championship.”
Newton’s Law: With Hawkins sidelined early with foul trouble, Newton stepped up, going 3-for-3 on 3-pointers and scoring nine points in the first half.
Hawkins: “He played great today.”
What Needs Work
Pressure: Two tournament games, two victories. The Huskies have reclaimed their early season rhythm, broke through for their first NCAA win under Hurley, and are now in the Sweet 16. But much more talented teams await, including Arkansas for their first game in Las Vegas. That’s a fast-paced, high-pressure team with a lot of talent. And if the Hogs get off to a hot start in the first, or if UConn’s stars are not shining, it could spell the end of this run.
Hurley: “Yeah, playing at UConn, it's just you deal with a lot more pressure and criticism and like immediate meltdowns on social when you lose. I think in the first and even second round of tournaments, it's more of a burden to play at UConn than it is an advantage.”
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Saint Mary’s had an edge here early but UConn quickly changed that with a steep shift in the middle of the second half.
UConn owns an 18-4 record in second-round games. … Hurley is now 1-2 all-time in second-round games, making his first Sweet 16 as a head coach. .. The last two times UConn has advanced to the Sweet 16 it won the national championship (2011, 2014). … UConn is 25-3 when leading at the half this season. … UConn holds a 2-0 all-time record against Saint Mary’s. The Huskies won the first meeting 89-73 on Dec. 17, 2006 at the Hartford Civic Center.
Thursday, vs. No. 8 Arkansas in the Sweet 16, 7:10 p.m. ET
UConn is favored by four points by the oddsmakers and in KenPom the Huskies are ranked 4th while Arkansas is 18th. The site projects a six-point Husky win.