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Takeaways from UConn men’s basketball’s loss to Creighton

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The Huskies suffered their second loss to the Bluejays this season on the road in Omaha.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time all season, UConn has lost back to back games. As it has for stretches in many games this season, the Husky offense looked rudderless at times, including most of the first half on Saturday before a late run got them within one at halftime. The comeback bid fell short as Creighton defeated UConn 74-66.

Here are some takeaways from the Huskies’ third loss of the 2020-21 season.

The UConn “Glass Cleaning” Huskies

Ryan Goodman: As FOX commentator Kevin Kugler put it nicely, it is clear that the “Glass Cleaning” Huskies' biggest strength is their offensive rebounding edge that they capitalize on frequently. UConn outrebounded the Blue Jays 43-27, with 18 offensive boards, 11 in the first half alone. That is just ridiculous. It is clear that the Bouk-less Huskies will have to convert as many second-chance opportunities as possible.

UConn failed at the conversion piece against Creighton, missing countless layups and shooting 35.9% overall from the field. Strategically, they had the right idea: crash the boards, take possessions away from Creighton, and try to slow down their potent offensive attack as much as possible. The Huskies ultimately just couldn't convert enough of the additional opportunities that they had created for themselves.

“We were all over the backboard, we just can’t finish - can’t finish in the paint,” head coach Dan Hurley said.

Dan Madigan: It is really impressive how good this team is on the boards, especially offensively. Even during tough offensive days like this one, UConn’s rebounding will almost always give them a chance to win. It’s a real testament to the culture change Hurley has already made here as well as the impressive performances from bigs like Josh Carlton, Isaiah Whaley and Adama Sanogo as well as guards Tyrese Martin, RJ Cole and Jalen Gaffney. It’s a team effort and everyone has really bought in.

Side note: I always thought Christian Vital would be the best rebounding guard UConn ever had. Martin, who plays so much bigger than he is and is a commanding presence in the paint, may be better.

The Sanogo Train Keeps Chuggin’ Along

Ryan Goodman: After showing flashes of brilliance but also logging a few low-minute outings, Adama Sanogo played well in the loss to St. John’s and looked good again against a talented Creighton team. While Sanogo fouled out late in the second half, he finished with 13 points and five rebounds on an efficient 5-9 shooting from the field.

Hurley clearly wanted to feature Sanogo on the offensive end, as he had multiple instances where the freshman was intentionally isolated with his defender on the low block and basically told to go to work. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable in the Huskies offense each game. I’m excited to see this kid grow and continue to unlock his potential during his first year as a Husky.

Perspective

Poor offensive execution is the reason UConn lost this game. That can happen when you lose your top scorer and one of the best players in college basketball. This team has the talent to beat anyone, but the offense is not menacing, especially without Bouknight.

But the Huskies are looking really strong defensively. UConn just held the ninth most efficient offense in college basketball to 74 points, and outside of some minor slip ups, has played well all season. While it really sucks to struggle on one end and lose a game where UConn had a chance to win at one point, and have that happen twice againt Creighton this team is certainly trending in the right direction and has never been at full strength all season.

Without its best player, UConn hung tight with the No. 11 team in the country on the road and lost by eight despite largely due to layups and other good shots not falling. Not because the team didn’t have enough talent. Not because the strategy was flawed. We still have plenty to feel positive about in terms of expectations for the season.