UConn took the court for the first time in over a week when they welcomed Seton Hall to Gampe Pavilion, and the rust was evident right from the tip. The Huskies’ once again sputtered without James Bouknight, and the Pirates defeated UConn 80-73 to hand UConn its fourth loss of the season. Here are some takeaways from this weekend’s loss to Seton Hall.
Andre Jackson returns (and impresses)
Ryan Goodman: The freshman wing saw his first game action since Dec. 20 against Creighton, missing time due to a broken left wrist. With mostly limited minutes even in the games he had played and not much impact, Jackson definitely made his presence felt in this one. He finished with seven points on 66 percent shooting, and even made a 3-pointer in 20 minutes of game action. Oh, and that one-handed putback jam where he almost nailed his head on the rim was pretty cool too. Jackson showed promise in this one.
Leading up to this game, Jackson appeared to look a bit lost in the game action he had seen. You can blame it on COVID delaying his development, you can blame it on Hurley, you can blame it on the wrist injury that took him about for multiple games, but the reality is that it’s probably a mix of all of these things. However, this much is clear. Jackson’s impact and ability to influence the game for the Huskies is going to be highly correlated with his confidence level and the way he settles into games early on. At this point, he’s not going to come in and immediately be a big-time impact player. Soon after he entered the game, Jackson was slow to rotate on the baseline and it led to two free throws for Seton Hall guard Takal Molson. However, he didn’t let this affect him too much, as he settled into the game nicely and made some stops on defense. After this, you could visibly see him handling the ball with more confidence and taking it upon himself to set up his teammates in great positions to score. I’m excited about this kid’s future.
Mike Mavredakis: This was Jackson’s true arrival in Storrs. Of course, he had played before, but he had yet to show the real reason Hurley brought him to UConn. That changed on Saturday. After getting out to a slow start in his first shift, where he got blown by a couple of times defensively, he settled in. He crashed the defensive boards and slowly started to build a type of confidence on the ball that he hadn’t shown yet this season. Then there’s the putback. Man o’ man was that incredible. Watching the replay, he was sprinting at the hoop even before the shot comes off Jalen Gaffney’s hand and then he just takes flight. It was a special moment.
Lack of energy
Mavredakis: There were so many instances throughout the first half where there was just no energy. On offense, UConn was mostly standing around. They set a pick here and there and they passed it around a bunch but weren’t threatening to get into any dangerous scoring area. It was almost like they were on park the bus but on offense and in the first minute of the game. Then on defense, they were getting blown by and couldn’t really lock up Seton Hall’s potent scoring duo of Sandro Mamukelashvili and Myles Cale — who each dropped 20-plus points. They need consistent energy, even after nearly two weeks off. James Bouknight is out right now, I know, but he can’t be the only one working. Jackson and Gaffney were the outliers, though, they deserve credit for their efforts.
Also, I recognize there were fewer rebounding opportunities because Seton Hall hit 50 percent of both field goals and threes, but UConn grabbed just 23 rebounds all game. For comparison, during their comeback against Marquette, they had 42 rebounds. UConn’s starting frontcourt, Isaiah Whaley and Adama Sanogo, had just two rebounds each against the Pirates but combined for 18 boards against Marquette, You can’t win a game if you don’t gobble up rebounds at a competitive ratio.
Jalen Gaffney drops a career-high
Goodman: Gaffney’s performance was overshadowed by our defensive lapses and Andre Jackson’s dunk, but he was the Huskies leading scorer today with 20 points, to go along with two assists and two steals. I don’t believe I’m alone in thinking that Gaffney was going to take a bigger step forward than he appears to have taken this year, but it’s great to see him hanging 20 in a high-level conference game. Throughout his time as a Husky, Gaffney had created a handful of “wow” plays, but it was never consistent enough. He found that consistency in this game, hunting for his own shot and scoring when he wanted to most of the time. I hope he can carry the momentum from this performance to the Providence game on Wednesday.