UConn’s stars carried the Huskies to a 74-64 victory over Oklahoma State on Thursday night at Gampel Pavilion, remaining undefeated through nine games and maintaining a double-digit margin in each of those wins.
Jordan Hawkins scored a career-high 26 points and Adama Sanogo added 20 points of his own as the two efficiently converted scoring opportunities. Hawkins shot 5-9 from beyond the arc and Sanogo converted half of his shots while shooting 75% from the stripe to lead an offense that consistently outpaced the visitors.
Hawkins’ 18 first-half points and Sanogo’s thirteen combined to match Oklahoma State’s total scoring output at halftime, double-handedly providing the Huskies with a lead they would not relinquish. Oklahoma State got the margin within nine points in the second half, but its comeback effort never got any closer.
Two early fouls to Moussa Cissé, the Cowboys’ best defensive player, kept the center out for much of the first half, during which time Sanogo had ten points in the game’s first seven minutes. The absence of Cissé’s two-way impact was felt later in the half as the Huskies went on a 15-0 run, sparked by sharp shooting from Hawkins and an undisciplined Oklahoma State defense gifting the Huskies with 19 free throw attempts.
Mike Boynton’s veteran squad looked uncomfortable during the first half, committing ten turnovers and fourteen fouls before the break, leading to a 17-point UConn advantage midway through the game. The Huskies’ ability on the fast break helped them convert these mistakes into easy scoring opportunities against a team that was using its bench for far more minutes than intended.
An Oklahoma State hot streak midway through the second half shortened the Huskies lead to 11, following a stretch of uninspired and listless play, but the run was cut short before getting too dangerous following a contested three from Andre Jackson and a physical defensive stop by Alex Karaban. The entire roster displayed versatility over the course of the game, with several players adding production in areas that aren’t their typical strengths.
Jackson, always a stat sheet stuffer, was the only other Husky to finish in double figures, and also led the team in rebounds, assists, and steals. The UConn bench provided unusually little, combining for only 11 points on 2-13 field goal shooting, though Joey Calcaterra added a pair of timely three-pointers to help quell Oklahoma State surges.
Cissé, one of three Cowboys to average ten or more points, was held scoreless in tonight’s game but was the only player on either team to snag ten rebounds. Oklahoma State, an ineffective outside shooting team, received little scoring from the perimeter, though Texas State transfer Caleb Asberry hit three treys to help the offensive effort.
The Cowboys fall to 5-3 with the loss. Their next game is Dec. 6 against a Sam Houston team that appears to be the best of the Western Athletic Conference.
The Huskies have yet to play a close game, and their first experience with needing to close out a game may be up next, when they play at Florida on Dec. 7. The Gators are 5-3 but star center Colin Castleton has the skill and size to match up with Sanogo and could provide a tougher test than previous UConn opponents.