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No. 2 UConn men’s basketball overcomes Georgetown’s upset bid, 84-73

Joey Calcaterra provided a second-half spark to help the Huskies come back despite trailing late.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn men’s basketball team kept its streak of double-digit wins going by toppling Georgetown, 84-73. But this was not the walk in the park many expected.

The Hoyas led by seven with 11:50 left in the game and UConn looked primed for a brutal upset. That is, until grad transfer Joey Calcaterra poured in 14 points in 12 minutes to blow an angsty, sluggish game wide open. The San Diego transfer was scoring in all sorts of different ways, including this absurd high-low play that he tipped in for some very crucial points.

Tristen Newton led UConn with 17 points and seven assists. Adama Sanogo added 14 points and seven rebounds, while Jordan Hawkins added 15. Andre Jackson had his usual stat-stuffer night, adding seven points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists.

UConn improves to 13-0, but was outrebounded 40-28 and let the Hoyas shoot 46% from the field. The Huskies responded well in the face of adversity thanks to their depth and a personnel tweak from Dan Hurley in the second half.

The Hoyas were highly competitive from the start, shooting perfectly from the field until the 14th minute. Former prodigal son Akok Akok was an impact player on both ends, while UConn’s guards had no answer for Brandon Murray and Primo Spears. In the huddle at the under-12 timeout, Dan Hurley told his team: “We’re not throwing enough body blows, we’re being too nice with them.”

He wasn’t wrong.

Qudus Wahab and Akok matched up well against UConn’s frontcourt. It shows how dominant UConn has been that Georgetown led for just three minutes and 19 seconds and its largest lead in the first half was only two, but there was considerable angst from a crowd expecting the Hoyas to roll over.

Nevertheless, threes from Hawkins and Sanogo helped UConn score 24 points in the last seven minutes and take a seven-point lead into the halftime break.

That lead quickly evaporated with an 11-2 run from Georgetown to start the second half, capped off by an emphatic alley-oop from Akok. UConn now trailed for the first time in the second half all year, and after Hurley was teed up for contesting an iffy three-second call, the Huskies’ composure faced its toughest test of the year.

After a 16-2 Hoya run and UConn showing no signs of any life on either end, it was panic button time. Desperate for a spark, Hurley opted for a quicker lineup of Hassan Diarra, Nahiem Alleyne, Jackson, and Calcaterra around Clingan. The smaller, four-out lineup changed the game with its ball pressure and energy, while Mr. California cemented folklore status with absurd play after absurd play.

After a 15-2 run — all from UConn’s bench — Georgetown kept it at a two-possession game for a little, but Calcaterra would not be denied. With UConn’s bench scoring 21 points and the Hoyas running out of gas, the rout was on.

Remember in Christmas Vacation, where Chevy Chase is trying everything to get the lights on his house to go on, and nothing was working? That was Dan Hurley in this game with 11:50 left. Calcaterra is Ellen Griswold simply turning on the switch. California and Diarra’s hustle, combined with some timely blocks from Clingan, changed the game to help UConn avoid national embarrassment.

The Huskies are off until Dec. 28, when they host Villanova in a game that will be televised at 6:30 p.m. on FS1.