The no. 24 UConn men’s basketball team had no problem taking care of business in its season debut, topping Central Connecticut State 99-48 in a sold-out Gampel Pavilion.
Sophomore Adama Sanogo led the Huskies with a career-high 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting while adding five rebounds and three blocks. UConn had four other players reach double figures: Tyrese Martin (14), RJ Cole (15), Polley (11), and Jalen Gaffney (10). Andre Jackson chipped in nine points, six rebounds, and three assists, while Akok Akok logged eight points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in 17 minutes.
UConn had 47 points off of 29 turnovers and forced Central to shoot 35% from the field while shooting an impressive 61% from the field and 62% (8-13) from three. The Huskies also dominated down low, with 58 points in the paint and a 34-23 rebounding advantage.
While many wondered if UConn could replace the scoring of James Bouknight, the Huskies got off to a strong start convincing them otherwise. They converted their first seven field goals and used its tremendous size and athleticism advantage at every opportunity. Defensively, the Huskies’ length and ball pressure led to many a wild shot from the Blue Devils. It was essentially a blemish-free first half for UConn, who led 52-23 at the break.
It was an equally fast start to the second half, with UConn forcing two turnovers on the first two Central possessions, including this:
From there on out, it was all about playing smart basketball, without letting up the defensive intensity or fouling too much. The Huskies did just that while getting lots of different guys involved.
- Sanogo once had three (!) bodies draped over him inside, and he quickly kicked it out to a wide-open Gaffney, who buried the trey. It won’t be the last of the double (and triple) teams Sanogo faces, and his quick recognition of the coverage is a great sign.
- A lot of UConn’s sets started with entry passes to Sanogo at the top of the key, with back screen flare/flex action down low. Today at least, he had the passing chops to make that high/low entry pass. Something to watch going forward, because conventional wisdom would have Whaley being the inverted big given Sanogo’s footwork.
- This tweet from esteemed internet colleague @tcf_15 made me laugh, because it was my exact same reaction:
Not gonna lie, for a quick second there, seeing #35 hoist a three made my heart skip a beat thinking it was Amida Brimah.— tcf15 (@tcf_15) November 10, 2021
- Tyrese Martin read your little Tweets about not making layups. He attacked the rim to the tune of an efficient 6/9 of the field and converted his lone three-ball.
- FS! announcer and Husky alum Donny Marshall noted UConn has more size than four NBA teams. And right on cue, Hurley trotted out a Jackson-Martin-Polley-Whaley-Sanogo lineup in the second half. That’s enough wingspan to get Jay Bilas to even pay attention to UConn.
- RJ Cole’s favorite band is apparently the Jonas Brothers. Let that wash over you for a second.
- Hurley postgame on the team’s depth and lack of “alpha”: “We’re going to be tough to prepare for. We bring a lot to the table on the defensive end, and our size wears on you on the glass. We can beat you with so many people.”
- Former UConn assistant Pat Sellers is facing quite the uphill climb at Central, and the Blue Devils’ were picked last in the Northeastern conference preseason polls. But they did return four of their seven top scorers, and UConn fans should never take a season opener blowout for granted after the Great Wager debacle of 2016.
Next up, UConn hosts Coppin State this Saturday, Nov. 12, at noon. The game will be televised on FS2.