No. 21 UConn men’s basketball has had a few days to recover from one of its most emotionally draining games of the season, before taking on the worst team in the league.
The Huskies have basically locked up the 3-seed in the Big East Tournament after beating No. 8 Villanova 71-69 in an eventful Tuesday night at the XL Center. If they can win their next three against a relatively weak remaining schedule, UConn could climb in the top-25 and NCAA Tournament seed lines.
Meanwhile, Georgetown has had a rough go of it all season. The last time the Huskies and Hoyas matched up on Jan. 25, Patrick Ewing’s crew lost its seventh consecutive game.
That streak is still active, now at 17. Yikes.
Through Georgetown’s entire run, only two losses were by less than five points and 10 have been by double digits. The Hoyas are ranked 188th in KenPom.
When: Sunday, Feb. 27 — 12 p.m.
Where: Capital One Arena — Washington, DC
Radio: UConn Sports Network
Odds: UConn - 11.5
KenPom Predicted Score: 79-68
When UConn has the ball
Last time these two teams played, Adama Sanogo played just 25 efficient minutes as UConn cruised to victory. The big man led the way offensively with 19 points on 8-14 shooting in just 23 minutes, while he grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots. We saw a lot of UConn’s bench, and even had Rahsool Diggins and Richie Springs sightings.
Georgetown’s height didn’t matter, as 7-footer Timothy Ighoefe was in foul trouble all game, playing just 15 minutes in a starting role. Ryan Mutombo, who stands 7-foot-2, picked up the minutes, but the freshman couldn’t stop Sanogo.
UConn was also deadly from beyond the arc, shooting 10-24 (41.7 percent). Georgetown is among the worst in the country with a 36.5 shooting percentage against on deep shots. Jordan Hawkins, in particular, took advantage in the last matchup, with a 4-7 performance from deep as he scored 15 points in just 13 minutes. RJ Cole (2-5) and Tyrese Martin (2-4) also used the soft defense to their advantage, helping UConn to a 50-point first half and a big win.
When Georgetown has the ball
While efficient shooting helped, the pace at which Georgetown plays was also a factor in such a high-scoring affair last time out. The Hoyas are the 26th-fastest team in the country, with an adjusted 71.0 possessions per 40 minutes according to KenPom. After St. John’s, which is second nationally, this is the second-fastest team in the Big East.
The Hoyas turn it over 13.5 times per game, 256th in the country, while Cole and Andre Jackson each average more than 1.0 steals per game and despite playing mostly down low, Isaiah Whaley is not far behind. UConn had five steals last time and turned those turnovers into transition baskets, with 27 fast-break points.
Aminu Mohammed is the only Hoya to appear - and start - in all 27 games and thus, leads the team in minutes and is tied in points per game (14.0) with Donald Carey. The freshman guard is not the most efficient, shooting 38.7 percent from the field, but did lead the way against UConn with 15 points and seven rebounds on 6-11 shooting.
Carey is one of the more efficient 3-point shooters in the country, converting at a 41.7 percent clip. While he does not qualify for the national leaderboard due to just 144 attempts, he is a dangerous shooter and went 2-4 for the Hoyas against the Huskies in January. Georgetown’s other deep threat, Kaiden Rice, is one of the biggest volume shooters in the country, as he ranks in the top 25 in 3-point attempts and is still in the top 75 nationally, hitting 37.0 percent. Rice only played 16 minutes off the bench against UConn but did convert 3-5 from beyond the arc.
The three-pointer has kept Georgetown in games, particularly in conference play, but with just a 43.2 percent shooting percentage on 2-pointers, if the 3-balls aren’t falling, the Hoyas are going to get left in the dust, especially by elite competition. Sometimes, this can happen regardless, as Georgetown was 11-21 from beyond the arc against UConn in January and it didn’t matter.
With its weak defense, Ewing’s team needs to have a lot happen offensively to win games and it has yet to be able to do that in Big East play. UConn would have to get into foul trouble, have a bad shooting night, and/or lose a key player to injury or ejection for this one to be close, it seems.