They didn’t need an 18-point comeback this time. UConn men’s basketball was in control most of the game as it beat Marquette, 80-62, at Gampel Pavilion. UConn (12-6, 9-6 Big East) moves into third place in the Big East.
Guards R.J. Cole and James Bouknight led the way. Cole shot an efficient 9-14 from the field and 3-6 from three as he finished with 21 points along with three rebounds and three assists. He did a great job of creating space for himself and being opportunistic within the offense instead of forcing anything, which he said was an emphasis for him after the game.
“When your backcourt gives you that, and you guard, you’re hard to beat,” head coach Dan Hurley said post-game.
Bouknight didn’t seem to ever take over but still found his way to 24 points with some crafty finishes in the paint. Even when Marquette looked like it might storm back into the game late in the second, Bouknight and Cole kept making plays in big spots.
“We need [Bouknight] and [Cole] nightly,” Hurley said. “We need Tyrese [Martin] nightly, but the strength of the group is the depth.”
The rest of the rotation made their presence felt as well. Tyler Polley hit a pair of threes during the Huskies major first-half run, Martin crashed the glass and scooped up eight rebounds and Jackson provided a jolt of energy with his constant off-ball movement and playmaking, including this first-half slam. The freshman finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
I’m sorry Sir Isaac Newton, Andre Jackson doesn’t need your gravity pic.twitter.com/pFmD6trC6w— Mike Mavredakis (@MMavredakis) February 27, 2021
UConn’s frontcourt struggled with foul trouble throughout the game. Freshman Adama Sanogo’s two early fouls limited his playing time until both he and Isaiah Whaley were at four. They were extremely effective at forcing Marquette to play from the outside, holding the Golden Eagles to an 0-10 start on layup attempts, though they would finish 8-19.
Senior Josh Carlton came out of the game with an apparent injury during the second half and did not return. Akok Akok played four minutes, logging one rebound.
Despite getting out to a slow start, UConn got the lead back with 13 minutes to go in the first half and didn’t look back. The Huskies outscored the Golden Eagles 26-10 the rest of the way as everyone pitched in some key scoring. Hurley’s squad led 38-21 at the half.
Bouknight and Cole combined for 27 points in the second half as UConn sealed the deal. Marquette looked dangerous for a stretch in the middle but never got back within single digits.
This was as seamless of performance as UConn has had this season and the Huskies did it with inside scoring. The 40 points in the paint made up half of their scoring and they hit seven jumpers inside the line. A locked-in defensive performance gave UConn opportunities to score, with 17 fastbreak points on the afternoon.
Overall, this game set up UConn well with two games left in the season. The Huskies are ranked no. 28 in KenPom, up from no. 34, and seem to be solidly in the conversation for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.
UConn’s next game will be against Seton Hall at the Prudential Center on Wednesday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m. on FS1. The Huskies’ final game of the season will be Saturday, March 6 at home against Georgetown on CBS.