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Notebook: Adama Sanogo impresses during UConn’s semifinal loss

The freshman finished with 13 points and five rebounds as the Huskies lost a nail-biter.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Creighton vs Connecticut Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly 10 months ago, Adama Sanogo re-classified from the 2021 recruiting class to join head coach Dan Hurley and UConn men’s basketball in 2020.

Friday, he was UConn’s most impactful offensive player in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament. The Huskies lost a nail-biter 57-54 to No. 17 Creighton to end its title hopes, but Sanogo showed how productive he can be when he’s on the court.

The freshman finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, an assist and a block in the loss. He was UConn’s most efficient shooter, going 6-9 from the field thanks to a bundle of floaters and buckets in the post.

UConn went on a 13-2 run to start the first half and Sanogo claimed eight of those points. He only scored five points the rest of the game, but that was largely due to a lack of game action since he got in a bit of foul trouble early on.

Sanogo registered his second foul with 8:47 left to play in the first half and didn’t come back in until the second half. UConn was up 17-13 at the time of his substitution but ended the half down 30-26.

The 6-foot-9 forward finished with just 21 minutes of game time, so had he not been limited by his fouling he could have had an even better night.

Despite the limited time he led UConn in plus-minus on the night, with a plus-12, and was one of two players with a plus-minus over 10 as Creighton’s Alex O’Connell had a plus-10 as well.

“It hurt not having him in there. I need to go back and see the fouls,” Hurley said. “He was plus-12 when he was in there. He was a real difference-maker. Obviously, the guy’s a beast.”

UConn got barnstormed on the glass as Creighton outrebounded them 50-33 on the night. The Bluejays really cleaned up on the offensive glass, specifically, pulling down 17 offensive boards. They turned that into 10 second-chance points, which was more than the difference in the final scoreline.

Even though they got rocked on the glass and let Creighton get another crack at a score on 17 occasions, Sanogo finished with a 28.9% defensive rebounding rate. He gobbled up defensive rebounding opportunities at a rate 6.1% higher than his season average on a night when UConn was struggling with what are usually their greatest strengths — rebounding and defense.

Sanogo has started every game since UConn played DePaul the first time back on Dec. 30. He took the starting gig from Josh Carlton, a two-year starter coming into this year.

He has impressed from the jump this season and it has carried into the postseason. He has now posted seven double-digit scoring efforts this season, including one in each of the last four games. He has averaged 1.5 blocks per game in that time as well.

Sanogo is still a freshman, and he shows it at times, but he has tremendous potential to feature in this UConn offense for the next two or three seasons. He was named to the Big East All-Freshman team for a reason.

If he keeps playing like he has the last few games, he may turn that into an All-Conference nomination down the road.

Other notes:

  • UConn will now have about a week off until the NCAA tournament starts, which will be key for getting James Bouknight and R.J. Cole back to full strength after they each have dealt with some bumps the past two days.
  • Selection Sunday is going to air at 6 p.m. on CBS on Sunday, March 14. the Huskies are widely expected to make the tournament as an at-large bid, and UConn will find out their seed and first round opponent at that time.