The UConn men’s basketball team started off strong but faltered late against no. 24 Seton Hall, losing 87-90 in overtime. Sophomore Adama Sanogo paced UConn with 18 points and a career-high 16 rebounds and RJ Cole added 15 while Tyrese Martin and Andre Jackson chipped in 10 apiece. The Huskies fall to 10-4 and 1-2 in the Big East.
It was UConn’s first game in 17 days due to a lengthy Covid pause that saw two games postponed. A transcendent performance from Kadary Richmond and clutch buckets from several Huskies made this one an instant classic even though UConn came up short.
It was an old-school, physical game between the two Big East charter members, that started off with both teams red-hot offensively. They shot a combined 8/10 from the field in the first five minutes. The end-to-end action featured some good offensive looks from UConn; Tyrese Martin on the block against the smaller Bryce Aiken, crosscourt passes to Akok Akok for three, and Sanogo layups. It was Sanogo’s first start since Maryland Eastern-Shore, but the sophomore came out a perfect 4-4 and had eight of the Huskies’ first 16 points.
The Huskies were active and alert on defense and got the lead up to six in the first half, but the Pirates kept hitting tough, contested buckets to stay within range. Back-to-back threes from Akok and Polley stretched UConn’s lead to eight, and it could have been more if not for some absurd fadeaway buckets from the likes of Jared Rhoden and Myles Cale.
Sanogo picked up two fouls and Seton Hall responded with a 5-0 run, but UConn went into halftime up four, and both teams were shooting over 50% from the field. It was an exciting, back-and-forth half of basketball, and arguably UConn’s most complete performance since Auburn. It could have been even better; the Huskies missed eight layups and had six unforced turnovers.
While many wondered if fatigue may hit the Huskies, Jackson came out firing and hit back-to-back threes to give UConn a nine-point lead.
A banked Isaiah Whaley three over 7’2 Ike Obiagu as the shot clock expired made it seem like the Huskies could do no wrong. But then Kadary Richmond entered the chat. The former UConn target and Syracuse transfer poured in 17 straight points for Hall and all of UConn’s momentum came screeching to a halt. Richmond, who’s averaging 7 points per game this season, could not be stopped and at one point had 21 of Seton Hall’s last 23 points.
The 6’9 Richmond abused UConn’s wings inside, almost singlehandedly cutting the lead to two at the U-8 timeout. With the two teams trading buckets, a Martin three gave UConn the lead at the under four timeout.
Deflections and bounces started to go Seton Hall’s way late though, and 11 second-half turnovers by UConn didn’t help. Knotted at 77 with 32.9 seconds left, UConn had a chance to win it but RJ Cole dribbled around before taking a very contested shot that missed the rim. After Bryce Aiken clanged a potential buzzer-beater on the other end, the game went to overtime.
Fatigue started to become apparent for the Huskies during free basketball. RJ Cole fouled out on an Aiken and-1. A Tyler Polley three kept UConn alive, and a brilliant out-of-bounds play gave Sanogo a jump hook for the lead with a minute left. But Richmond responded quickly, backing down UConn’s reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the go-ahead bucket. Down one with 27 seconds left, Martin coughed up the ball with two seconds left to basically seal the game.
Husky fans entered this game with low expectations, considering UConn was going on the road against a top-25 team after such a long time off. Wednesday was UConn’s first full practice since Dec. 20.
At the same time, to come out looking so good in the first half makes this loss excruciating. A season-defining conference road win was right there for the taking, and if you said before the game that UConn would shoot 14-23 from three, you would assume they won. There are no consolation prizes after a game like that. These types of games are starting to add up: they’ve lost four games by a combined 14 points. The Huskies need to be stronger in crunch time.
UConn will look to bounce back on Wednesday, Jan. 12, when they host St. John’s at 7 p.m.