UConn men’s basketball did exactly what it was supposed to do once again in its third game Tuesday night against the LIU, blowing out the Sharks emphatically thanks to an impressive second half to improve to 3-0 on the season.
While the Huskies’ competition hasn’t been the strongest so far, their performances — all blowouts — have allowed them to move up slightly in the national polls and KenPom.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from UConn’s 53-point victory.
All Gas No Brakes
Patrick Martin: Blowing out bad teams is to be expected. Maintaining high intensity for 40 minutes is impressive no matter who it’s against. Shots didn’t fall early, but the team kept up its defensive intensity, even when Hurley pulled his starters and featured his end-of-rotation guys — that’s a culture thing. You see college basketball blowouts everywhere in November, but not at the scale in which UConn has been decimating teams. After the initial separation, most teams let their foot off the pedal. To pummel teams like we’ve seen these three games, that’s a mentality that bodes well for this season when the competition ramps up.
This is the first time UConn has won multiple games by 50+ points in a season since 2005-2006. It’s their first 50-point win since 2009 (h/t Neill Ostrout). The Huskies have scored 281 points in three games, the most since the 1995-1996 season (h/t Katie Sharp).
UConn’s BENCH outscored LIU 47-40. All great stuff.
Ryan Goodman: Another dominant defensive effort from the UConn men. This isn’t necessarily surprising, given the quality of opponents UConn has faced this year. LIU is 296 in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom, CCSU is 340, and Coppin State is 352. What stands out, though, is how they are manufacturing turnovers, because this should translate fairly well to the increase in competition level. Besides their tenacious on-ball defense, led by RJ Cole whose defensive stance gets me fired up every single time I see it, they are using their length to disrupt passing lanes, closing out on shooters with outstretched arms, and doing a good job of not picking up dumb fouls. UConn has the athleticism to overwhelm almost any team in the country, and I’m excited to see how they match up against some of the teams upcoming on the schedule. As they start to play more talented offenses, there will be a lot more legitimate pressure on this defense, but they’ve done just about as well as they can possibly do through three games on that end of the floor.
Adama Sanogo contains multitudes
Patrick Martin: The sophomore center didn’t score 20 points, and that’s just fine. He passed out of double teams effectively, another good omen for the winter. He went a perfect five-for-five from the charity stripe. Nights like those show that Sanogo is well on his way to becoming a complete player and that UConn doesn’t need 20 a night from him to score. His orbit is so strong in the paint opponents will be forced to pick their poison.
Ryan Goodman: As most announcers have alluded to over the course of UConn’s first three games, leaving Adama Sanogo off of the preseason All-Big East teams was a mistake. Although he had been dominating the first two games for the Huskies, he didn’t need to in this one, but that’s because LIU was making it their number one priority to slow down the big man. How did he respond? By not forcing the issue, finding the open man when the LIU decided to double him in the post, showing off his growing basketball IQ. Sanogo didn’t record an official assist in the box score, but I counted at least a few hockey assists. He only played 19 minutes due to mild foul trouble and Hurley wanting to get more players some burn, but still had a respectable line of 11 points and 6 rebounds.
Patrick Martin: Over the first two games, senior sharpshooter Tyler Polley went 1-7 from three. Going 2-8 from downtown vs. LIU isn’t necessarily breaking out of a slump, but an efficient 6-12 from the field might be enough to get a shooter's juices flowing. The reigning Big East 6th Man of the Year seems well aware of what he does at an elite level to keep him in this deep rotation, and kudos to him for trying to shoot his way out of it.
Kudos to Hurley too, for giving him the green light at all times. Hurley emphasized after the game
Ryan Goodman: Polley had been cold going into last night and he didn’t light up the scoreboard by any means but he didn’t let that waiver his confidence. As a true believer in the shooting ability of Polley, this is good to see. Polley has proven in his career that he can be a dangerous threat from downtown and his success as a threat from deep is so important to the overall ceiling of this team. He is still the best pure shooter on the team and can hopefully start hitting at a higher clip sooner rather than later. With how deep the roster is, he will definitely have many opportunities, as defenses won’t be able to focus on Polley.
Dan Madigan: Speaking of shooters, how about Andre Jackson? The sophomore was incredible on both ends, especially in the first half, where his energy and 3-point shooting got the Huskies going offensively. Jackson doesn’t have to be a marksman for this team to be good, but if he can take and make the occasional three, it should open up the paint for him for easy dunks or kick out passes to shooters on the perimeter.
Jordan Hawkins looks like he belongs
Ryan Goodman: In his first action of the season, the freshman from Maryland looked very ready for the speed of the college game. He notched five points, four rebounds, three steals, and one assist in eight minutes, but the biggest takeaway from his performance is that he looked comfortable out there and was not shy in the slightest.
The first time he touched the ball he immediately got a quick screen from Whaley, created a little bit of space, and launched a deep three which barely missed. Although he couldn’t knock down his first look, he clearly has the confidence from Hurley to let it fly when he gets even a little separation from his defender, which makes sense given his pedigree coming out of high school as a long-range marksman. The fact that he was able to contribute in all aspects of the game in his debut was a very positive sign.