For the second time this season, UConn has comfortably beaten Butler. Tyrese Martin led the Huskies with 20 points as they won 63-51 at Gampel Pavilion Tuesday night.
The Huskies (8-3, 5-3 Big East) got the bounce-back performance they needed after losses to St. John’s and Creighton. An efficient first half laid the foundation for the win, as Martin and Tyler Polley led the way with 17 combined points in the period. Martin finished with 20 on 7-8 shooting including 2-3 from deep.
“That’s the template there: a strong defensive performance,” Dan Hurley said. The Bulldogs shot 34% from the field.
Isaiah Whaley had six points on the night and cleaned up on defense with a career-high seven blocks. He also grabbed five boards across his 31 minutes of action. RJ Cole scored 11 to go along with four rebounds and five assists, making a lot of plays to set up easy buckets for his teammates.
UConn played its best half of basketball in some time to open the game. The Huskies moved the ball well and hit 61.5% of their field goals as they built up a 14-point lead at the break, 38-24. They were 4-6 on layups and 6-9 from three-point range.
The Huskies' first-half defensive effort was impressive as well, holding Butler to just 29.6% on field goals and 1-11 on layups. UConn grabbed five steals and five blocks in the first 20 minutes, including four swats from Whaley.
UConn didn’t make as many shots in the second half, and largely relied on Martin’s scoring, but they were able to keep the lead intact despite a few Butler runs.
This was the type of game Dan Hurley was looking for after two disappointing performances. His upperclassmen took a step forward after a middling game against Creighton. They were active on the defensive end and didn’t waste possessions. He said the team picked each other up more on the offensive end as well.
The Huskies have a huge game coming up Thursday, so this was exactly what UConn needed to set the table looking ahead to No. 3 Villanova. Even though the team looked a bit flat in the second half, seeing contributions from across the roster is promising for everyone, especially as James Bouknight’s absence due to injury continues.
UConn also moved into No. 25 in KenPom’s ranks after the win, from No. 27.
Martin dealt with some cramping in his leg toward the end of the game, but Hurley confirmed that he is fine and will be good to go. Freshman Andre Jackson is “the closest” of the Huskies’ sidelined players and could be available for the St. John’s game on Jan. 31. Bouknight and Akok Akok are also dealing with injuries as well.
“The culture that we have here is much improved,” Hurley said. “There’s an expectation that UConn is supposed to win now, again, when we take the court.”
The Huskies take on Villanova on Thursday, Jan. 28 at Gampel Pavilion and the game will be televised on FS1 at 9 p.m.