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No. 2 UConn men’s basketball falls to No. 22 Xavier, 83-73

The Huskies couldn’t run it to 15-0.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The undefeated run is over, as No. 2 UConn men’s basketball unraveled late against No. 22 Xavier, taking an 83-73 loss to the Musketeers on the road inside Cintas Center on Saturday afternoon.

Andre Jackson was two assists away from a triple-double, grabbing 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and 10 rebounds. His outside shooting percentage was 4-9 before taking three deep shots in the final minute trying to catalyze a comeback. He was joined in double figures by Adama Sanogo (18 points) and Jordan Hawkins (11 points).

The Huskies also shot 37 3-pointers, choosing to remain outside rather than go inside against the Xavier frontcourt of Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge. This matched their season high against Oregon.

This game was a battle of strengths. Headed into the afternoon, Xavier had the country’s ninth-most efficient offense, according to KenPom, scoring 115 points per adjusted 100 possessions. Meanwhile, UConn was surrendering just 86.0 points per adjusted 100 possessions, which is good for No. 4 in the country.

Early on, it was Xavier that had the advantage. The hosts were 15-26 from the field in the first 20 minutes, shooting greater than 60 percent for a decent portion of the half. This includes an astounding 11-19 on 2-pointers. The Huskies had permitted their opposition to a mere 42.7 percent on inside shots before Saturday.

On the other side, UConn was ice cold. The visitors were 2-11 to begin the game, but held in courtesy of offensive rebounding, giving them a litany of second-chance opportunities to score points. Xavier still held small leads through most of the half, with a pair of 7-0 bursts helping out the Musketeers.

One of those runs served UConn its first double-digit deficit of the season, trailing 36-26 with 5:48 remaining in the first half. The Huskies responded by scoring the final 16 of 22 points of the first half, capped off by a wild sequence.

UConn turned the ball over inside of 30 seconds to go and Souley Boum, instead of holding for the final shot, forced up a wild layup, giving the Huskies the opportunity to take the final shot. Nahiem Alleyne drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing, sending the No. 2 team in the country into the locker room with a 42-41 lead.

Coming out of the break, Alex Karaban knocked down an outside shot and Jackson hit another, with a lay-up by Adam Kunkel sandwiched in the middle to push the visitor’s lead to five, forcing Sean Miller to take a time-out. UConn would push its lead to as large as seven, but a pair of free-throws by Jack Nunge tied the proceedings at 50 apiece with 16:27 to go.

From there, it was a battle between two NCAA tournament-bound teams. Xavier would lead by as much as six over the next 12 minutes, while the Huskies were on top by as many as four. With 4:12 remaining, Jackson stole the ball on an in-bounds and laid it in to tie the game at 71-71.

After that, the wheels fell off for the Huskies. The game finished with the Musketeers on a 12-2 run. Zach Freemantle was at the free-throw line with 2:25 to go and UConn trailing 73-71. Dan Hurley was assessed a technical foul between the first and second shots. Boum made both technical shots, Freemantle converted both of his and suddenly Xavier was up six.

Sanogo scored on the ensuing possession but that was all the offense the Huskies would have the remainder of the game as they finished 1-10 from the field.

UConn (14-1, 3-1 Big East) is now done for 2022 and will open up the 2023 portion of the schedule on Wednesday on the road against Providence. Tip-off on FS1 is slated for 8:30 p.m.