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UConn men’s basketball moves up to No. 17 in AP Poll; RJ Cole named to Big East Honor Roll

The Huskies continue to climb up the poll thanks to their five-game win streak.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

With another week filled with a pair of wins, UConn men’s basketball once again moved up in the AP Top 25 this week, coming in at No. 17 after being ranked No. 20 last week. The Huskies blew out Georgetown at home last Tuesday before struggling on the road at DePaul on Saturday, but managed to escape with a 57-50 win. The win over the Blue Demons also pushed the Huskies up to No. 17 in KenPom — their highest ranking on the site all season to date.

UConn joins No. 12 Villanova, No. 15 Providence, No. 21 Xavier and No. 24 Marquette as the five members of the Big East in this week’s poll. The Huskies will take on the No. 12-ranked Wildcats this week as UConn heads down to Philadelphia to take on Jay Wright’s Villanova squad at the Wells Fargo Center.

Since returning to action in early January from their COVID-19 pause, UConn has posted a 5-1 record and won their last five games. While the Huskies have gone up against the softer part of the Big East in this span with two games against Butler and then last week’s matchups against the Hoyas and Blue Demons, UConn has looked more complete on both ends and handled most of those games with relative ease.

The major exception to that was Saturday’s DePaul game, where the Huskies took the Blue Demons lightly and got burned for it early on. After a hot start, UConn trailed by double digits in the first half before clawing back to within three at halftime. In the second half, the Huskies were able to pull ahead and stay in front to secure a seven-point win. While most of the team struggled for stretches, RJ Cole was the lone bright spot, scoring 25 points with five rebounds.

Whenever the Huskies needed a bucket or a stop defensively, Cole almost always answered. His constant energy, shooting stroke and ability to get to the free throw line kept UConn in the game even as the offense sputtered around him. Cole was named part of this week’s Big East Honor Roll for his heroic efforts, coupled with a 14-point, seven assist showing earlier in the week in the blowout over the Hoyas.

While Cole may not be the centerpiece of this UConn offense — that title is clearly Adama Sanogo’s — he’s without a doubt the one that the Huskies trust most late in the shot clock. Despite his lack of size, Cole is able to get by defenders and score consistently around the basket, usually with the help of some circus-shot angles. If he is able to play consistently off the ball as Andre Jackson becomes more comfortable running point and Jalen Gaffney continues to emerge from his season-long funk, he should be able to most a few more gaudy scoring numbers before the end of the season.