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UConn men’s basketball loses at Providence, 70-59

The Huskies trailed most of the day in what turned out to be their fourth loss in five games.

Stew Milne

The UConn offense sputtered once again as the Huskies dropped their second game in a row, this time to Providence, 70-59. They fall to 8-5 (5-5) in the Big East after the loss and have likely moved out of NCAA Tournament contention at this time.

The Huskies looked disjointed all afternoon. Down the stretch, they played well enough to keep PC’s lead down but couldn’t put enough plays together to tie up the game.

“They played better. They were tougher, they played better than us, coached better than us,” head coach Dan Hurley said.

Junior R.J. Cole came in on the bench for the first time in his UConn career as Jalen Gaffney entered the starting lineup. Cole responded with a team-high 14 points along with six assists. However, he didn’t score in the final eight minutes and really faded in the second half overall.

Freshman Adama Sanogo single-handedly kept UConn in the game down the stretch as he posted one of his most impressive performances to date. He finished with nine points, eight boards, and five blocks on the night. Some foul trouble kept him out of the final minutes, but he did plenty to keep UConn in it.

Tyrese Martin played a solid game, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds in the loss. He fouled out late in the game, but the game had slipped away by that point.

Andre Jackson had another great game in his return to action after breaking a bone in his wrist. He had six points and four rebounds and showed flashes of what he can be for UConn. Jackson drew a lot of excitement when he threw down another highlight-reel dunk and stuffed Noah Horchler with authority in the second half.

“The only good thing that came from today was getting two freshmen a lot of minutes,” Hurley said.

It was a tough night for Isaiah Whaley, Tyler Polley and Brendan Adams, a set of experienced players this team is especially dependent on with James Bouknight out. The two seniors combined for nine points on 4-16 shooting and four rebounds. Whaley also fouled out. Polley was 2-12 from the field, 1-8 from three in his first start since Nov. 27 against Hartford. Adams did not register a statistic, not even a missed shot or a foul, in 12 minutes.

The UConn offense was sloppy from the start, even though the Huskies found themselves holding a 34-33 halftime lead over the Friars. They were decent from the floor (43.8%) and solid from three (40%) but they were not playing high-quality basketball at any point.

Cole scored 10 first-half points and dished five assists in 15 minutes. Sanogo cleaned up down low with five points, seven boards and four blocks.

The second half saw the already-middling quality of the Huskies’ play get worse. UConn went 0-10 from three and shot just 36.7% overall for the half. They let Providence outscore them by 12 points and outrebound them by seven en route to the loss.

This was essentially a must-win game for UConn, as the team will likely slide out of the next projections for the NCAA Tournament. This team looks like it needs star guard James Bouknight badly, but Hurley put some doubt on that happening soon. He said the sophomore was “not close” to playing Wednesday and said he was feeling some discomfort.

The Huskies’ next game is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13 against Xavier at the Cintas Center. It will be televised on FOX at noon.