Fresh off a big Thanksgiving Day win over Oregon, UConn men’s basketball showed another level in a decisive 82-67 win over No. 18 Alabama. Despite squandering a 14-point first-half lead, the Huskies never trailed. With the victory, the Huskies get to 7-0 on the season and will take on Iowa State for the Phil Knight Invitational crown on Sunday at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
After struggling with foul trouble in limited minutes against Oregon, Adama Sanogo was his usual stellar self, dominating the Alabama frontcourt with a game-high 25 points on 9-16 shooting. Jordan Hawkins poured in 16 points while freshman Alex Karaban added 12.
After going scoreless for over three minutes to start, Sanogo got things started with a bucket in the post, followed by back-to-back threes from Hawkins. Another layup from Sanogo made it 10-7 UConn, but it was tied at 10 at the under-12 timeout.
Much like in the Oregon game, Joey Calcaterra and Donovan Clingan served as major sparks off the bench early on. Calcaterra keyed a 14-0 run to help the Huskies pull away early. He got things started with a floater in the lane, then drilled a three on the ensuing possession. After an Alex Karaban three and layups from Hawkins and Andre Jackson, Clingan scored a hard-earned bucket in the post to go up 24-10.
Bama closed out the half on a 9-0 run to cut the lead going into the break. Noah Clowney tied the game after scoring five points in 30 seconds with 13 minutes to play.
While the UConn offense never got back to its first-half levels of production after Karaban, Hawkins, and Sanogo all picked up their third fouls, the Husky bench stepped up to keep the Crimson Tide in check despite Alabama tying the game four separate times, including at 52 apiece with less than nine minutes to play.
With Sanogo and Hawkins back in the fold and Tristen Newton’s knack for drawing fouls, UConn ripped off an impressive closing run. Newton and Sanogo delivered a 16-1 run all on their own, with Newton making four free throws and both players hitting threes on back-to-back possessions to deal the final blow. The Huskies stretched the lead to as much as 19 in the game’s final minutes to hold on for one of the best wins in the Dan Hurley era.
Newton finished the night with nine points, all in the second half, along with eight assists, and four steals. Hawkins (16 points, 3-6 from three) and Calcaterra (10 points) joined Karaban (12 points) as the other Huskies in double figures. One night after breaking the program record with 17 made 3-pointers, the Huskies shot 9-24 (37.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
The trio of Hawkins, Karaban, and Jackson worked hard defensively to keep Bama’s Brandon Miller, a top NBA Draft prospect this season, in check, holding him to 18 points with most of his damage done on broken plays or in transition. Despite being outrebounded and outscored on the fast break, the Huskies forced 21 Crimson Tide turnovers which they converted into 23 points.
Overall, UConn limited Alabama to just 16 attempts from three — an impressive achievement for a team that relies on the deep ball for nearly half of their field goals — and controlled the tempo by leaning on Sanogo, Clingan, and Newton to dictate the pace of play. The win over the Crimson Tide should hold plenty of value for postseason resume-building.