UConn men’s basketball trudged through non-stop fouls, poor shooting, and lots of sloppy play from both sides to beat DePaul at Wintrust Arena, 60-53.
The Huskies (7-1, 4-1 Big East) were led by junior Tyrese Martin down the stretch as they secured their fourth straight conference win. The transfer from URI notched 18 points, five steals and four rebounds in the victory effort. He had two late buckets to push the contest out of reach for the Blue Demons.
“Won that with toughness and the guys showing real grit and heart,” head coach Dan Hurley said post-game. “Obviously, we didn’t play a clean game.”
The reigning Big East Player of the Week, Tyler Polley, wasn’t as much of a flamethrower as his previous two games but still hit three attempts from deep on his way to 12 points. He also grabbed four boards, which is much more in line with his usual production than the zero-rebound performance against Butler.
UConn stormed out to a 17-6 lead early. RJ Cole looked like a different player out of the gate, attacking the basket with more intensity en route to eight first-half points. Senior Isaiah Whaley was the engine in the Huskies’ defensive effort. He got a massive block with seven minutes to go in the first half during DePaul’s 8-0 run to jump back into the game as he finished with eight points and five boards.
DePaul came back thanks to its tenacious offensive rebounding effort. The Huskies looked stagnant in the latter portion of the half, forcing shots and standing around a bit and the Blue Demons made a run to cut it close. There was also a whistle every 1:20 of clock time in a half that ended with UConn up 33-30.
The second half saw both teams trade the lead until UConn closed it out late. DePaul went up early on the back of an 8-0 run at the beginning of the half and held the lead for a lot of the period but UConn eventually overtook them on the strength of Martin’s offense and great team defensive effort.
That late defensive effort and toughness made the difference despite some real struggles. UConn only hit 13-24 free throws and gave away 14 turnovers on the night. They were heavily outrebounded and squandered many opportunities to make this their game. But it didn’t matter in the end. They earned another win without their star, and found a way to power through a sub-optimal performance.
“We missed a number of opportunities, had a hard time at the free-throw line,” Hurley said. “We missed some point-blank chances, again, which we’ve got to get better at finishing, or else we’re not going to continue to win.”
UConn’s next game was originally scheduled to be at home against Villanova on Jan. 15, but that game was postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Wildcats program. The Huskies’ next contest will be on Monday, Jan. 18 on FS1 and the tip time is to be announced.