No. 20 UConn Men’s basketball was not at its best offensively but relied on stingy defense to take down DePaul, 57-50, at Wintrust Arena. The Huskies have won five in a row this season and 12 straight against DePaul.
RJ Cole led the way with 25 points, carrying the Huskies through multiple stretches of the game and Adam Sanogo scored 10 points after a quiet first half. Those were the only two Huskies in double digits. In addition to shooting 37% from the field, the Huskies were just 2-15 (13.3%) from deep with Cole hitting both of them.
UConn jumped out to a 7-0 lead as RJ Cole and Isaiah Whaley traded buckets. An 0-7 stretch that included two Sanogo fouls allowed DePaul to climb back in the game and eventually take the lead. Their lead ballooned to 10 points after senior forward Brandon Johnson nailed a three from the right corner.
As we’ve seen multiple times throughout the season, UConn was in an offensive funk and RJ Cole bailed them out. Cole scored 16 of UConn’s first 21 points, single-handedly keeping pace with the Blue Demons and allowing UConn to stay in the game.
Cole was 6-9 in the first half, compared to 4-17 for the rest of the team. The bench of Akok, Polley, Hawkins, and Gaffney was a combined 0-7. Sanogo struggled mightily in the first 20 minutes, going 1-of-5 with 2 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 fouls.
UConn pulled within one at the half thanks to Andre Jackson sending a beautiful full-court pass to Sanogo who caught it, turned around, and hit the bucket as the buzzer sounded for his first field goal of the game.
Dan Hurley made sure to feed his star big man early and often in the second half and it paid off. Sanogo delivered by scoring six straight points over four minutes. The first of those buckets came on a well-run transition opportunity where Martin dished to Sanogo and UConn regained the lead.
UConn’s hard-nosed defense locked the game up in the second half, as the Huskies held DePaul to a mere six points in the first ten minutes out of the break to take control of the game.
After a Sanogo miss turned into a Tyrese Martin putback, UConn had its largest lead of the game at 11 points with four minutes remaining. DePaul hung around but never seriously threatened. After a tough pull-up jumper by junior guard Javan Johnson (5.1 points per game), who led DePaul with 18 on the night, UConn needed one more basket to put the game out of reach. Hurley called upon his senior leader RJ Cole to make a play, and as he’s done many times this season, Cole answered the call.
This tough runner with 46 seconds left was the dagger.
It was an ugly game, but when the shots aren’t falling, good teams find ways to win on the road in conference play, and the Huskies did just that. Tyrese Martin and Andre Jackson each had seven points apiece while Gaffney and Polley had three points each.
The win propels UConn to 15-4 on the season and 6-2 in conference play. DePaul, who was playing without the Big East’s leading scorer Javon Freeman-Liberty (21.1 points per game), drops to 10-10 and 1-9 in the league. They have lost four straight.
Next up for UConn is a test against Creighton on Tuesday, February 1st. The game tips off at 6:30 p.m. ET and will air on FS1.