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UConn grinds out a win at Georgetown, 70-57

The Huskies clawed their way to an ugly but much-needed victory at McDonough Arena.

NCAA Basketball: Roman Legends Classic Championship-Connecticut vs USC David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After a hot start followed by a brutal cold stretch that saw UConn give up a double-digit lead, UConn men’s basketball left Georgetown with a decisive win, 70-57.

This was an important bounce-back effort by the Huskies (11-6, 8-6 Big East), no matter how ugly it was. After UConn’s game against Villanova slipped away over the weekend, this has Dan Hurley’s squad looking solid in the NCAA tournament conversation.

“We were scrappy today and really determined,” Hurley said after the game. “I thought we learned some hard lessons from the Villanova game.”

UConn started the game on a 10-0 run, only to squander the lead and go into the half down by one. In the second half, R.J. Cole and James Bouknight came alive to lead the Huskies to victory. Cole went just 1-7 from the field in the first half but turned it around as he created a number of buckets in big moments. Playing in the city where he spent the first two years of his college career, Cole finished with 17 points on 8-16 shooting with seven assists, five rebounds, and six steals.

Bouknight also seemed off early on. He hit his first two shots then the next few fell out and then he seemed hesitant the rest of the first half. That changed in the second half, as the Huskies’ star finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the win. He sealed the win with his multiple impressive dunks on the night, punctuating it with this one.

“When Bouknight is in rhythm and has had some games to play, the team gels,” Hurley said. “We’re obviously a team that has shown it can win a lot of games. We’re excited for the Big East Tournament, to have the band back together again.”

The rest of the starting lineup did well in complementary roles; the UConn bench didn’t contribute much until late. Freshman Adama Sanogo scored eight while grabbing seven boards and senior Isaiah Whaley had seven and seven as UConn grabbed a season-high 46 rebounds total. Tyrese Martin scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds.

The game could have been a comfortable, blowout victory if not for a 6:40 scoring drought by UConn in the final minutes of the half. They had the lead for 18:15 of the half before giving it up on a last-second three going into the break.

The start of the second half was more of the same until UConn started to pick it up, finishing on a 20-6 run to close it out. The Huskies cut down on turnovers and started finding and hitting better shots, with playmaking from across the roster to secure the victory.

This was a must-win game for the Huskies and, despite the rough stretch of play in the middle, they delivered a 13-point triumph. This should have them in most bracket projections and UConn moved up to No. 35 in the KenPom rankings after the win.

UConn’s next matchup will be Saturday, Feb 27 at home against Marquette on FOX at 2:30 p.m. There are just two more games left in the season after that: at Seton Hall on March 3rd and Georgetown at home in the regular-season finale on March 6.