No. 8 UConn men’s basketball rolled to its ninth win of the season Thursday with a convincing 74-64 victory over Oklahoma State. With the win, the Huskies are the only 9-0 team in the country and are set to jump into the top five in the AP Poll ahead of their road matchup with Florida next week. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Huskies’ win over the Cowboys.
Pick Your Poison
Patrick Martin: Per the esteemed tcf15, this Tweet stood out like a sore thumb last night.
UConn has won 4 games in a row against top-50 KenPom opponents (44 Oregon, 11 Alabama, 47 Iowa St, 33 OK St).— tcf15 (@tcf_15) December 2, 2022
This is the first time that’s happened in the regular season since 2007-08:
1/26/08 - Indiana (29)
1/28/08 - Louisville (8)
2/2/08 - Pitt (22)
2/6/08 - Syracuse (47)
Holy mackerel. But maybe even more impressive is that there was a different leading scorer in all four of those tilts. Tristen Newton paced UConn vs. Oregon, Adama Sanogo was the man vs. Alabama, Donovan Clingan broke out against the Cyclones, and Jordan Hawkins torched Ok. State. Two bigs, and two guards, so it's not like they’re one-dimensional in their depth.
Moussa Cisse and Oklahoma State have a formidable, imposing frontline that makes Clingan look like a freshman. So Jordan Hawkins going 5-9 from three. Alabama starts two freshmen bigs. Establish Sanogo and let the Big East preseason Player of the Year cook. An off night for Hawkins, Sanogo, or both? Newton, Clingan, and even Alex Karaban have shown they can fill it up. This team can win in so many ways.
Clingan and Karaban played like freshmen on Thursday. That’s going to happen a lot more times this year. But the beauty is there is enough talent around this team to absorb the learning curve, shooting slumps, or bad matchups. This trend of a different star every night is going to be the theme of the season.
Adama Sanogo’s defense has made major strides
Dan Madigan: Sanogo is currently fifth in KenPom’s Player of the Year ratings, and his performance on Thursday against a tough Oklahoma State frontcourt is a huge reason why. With Cisse, a Kareem Abdul Jabbar Award Watch List member, and Kalib Boone down low for the Pokes, Sanogo shredded them with ease to the tune of 20 points and six boards. While Cisse had the size and length advantage, Sanogo used his speed and strength to take Cisse out of the game early by drawing two quick fouls and made life miserable for him on the defensive end, altering both of his shots and keeping him off the boards.
We’ve seen plenty of what Sanogo is capable of on the offensive end this season, but Thursday’s defensive performance is another testament to just how good Sanogo is this season. As a freshman, Sanogo was a jumpy, slow-footed defender who too often got stuck in foul trouble. Last season, he made major strides but had the luxury of handing off tough post assignments to Isaiah Whaley, one of top defenders down low in the country. Now, Sanogo is an excellent defender in his own right, enforcing the paint and dominating the boards despite giving up four inches to Cisse. If Sanogo can keep it going on both ends — the two showdowns with Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner will be appointment TV — Sanogo has a real chance to not only become an All-American but vault himself into the National Player of the Year discussion.
The Straw that Stirs the Drink
Martin: What enables all of this elite depth and balance is that UConn’s most important player doesn’t need shots to impact the game. We witnessed the optimized version of Andre Jackson last night; 11 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. With no turnovers! He may score double digits often, but he doesn’t really need to do so. If he envelops the court on both ends the way he did last night, there is no ceiling on this team.
Draftniks are taking notice.
In like 15 seconds, Andre Jackson creates a potential assist, keeps an O-reb alive, gets a loose ball, and then throws a cross-court live dribble off-hand whip pass to Hawkins for a 3.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) December 2, 2022
Firmly believe that if Jackson ever figures out his jumper, he is a plus NBA rotation player. pic.twitter.com/4m2SW2Pqv4
To borrow a soccer term, he’s the straw that stirs the drink, the type of player that thrives with more talent around him. EvanMiya ranks him No. 15 in the country in his player Bayesian Performance Rating, pretty darn impressive for someone who only shoots five times a game.
Dan Madigan: We’re all running out of adjectives to describe what Jackson brings to the Huskies on both ends. His motor is relentless, and his high basketball IQ constantly puts him in the best position possible to make a play on either end. Even if he isn’t scoring, he remains an elite perimeter defender and an absolute nightmare for opponents on the boards. He’s also probably the best facilitator this team has to offer. With so many weapons available on offense this year — and Jackson showing early that he can hit all sorts of shots when needed — Jackson is one of the most fascinating players in college basketball. It’s disrespectful to call him a role player, because he does so much for this team, but he’s like a glue guy on steroids who can mold himself into whatever UConn needs in that moment to match up with their opponent.