The No. 24 UConn men’s basketball team completed their second series sweep of the season, dispatching the No. 18 Marquette Golden Eagles 80-72. The Huskies snap a two-game skid and improve to 16-6 on the season and 7-4 in Big East play. Adama Sanogo logged his fifth double-double of the season with 24 points and 15 rebounds, while Tyrese Martin added 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. The Huskies outrebounded Marquette 46-27, with the No. 2 offensive rebounding team in the nation quickly reestablishing its identity, per head coach Dan Hurley’s request. The Huskies also shot 43 percent from 3-point range and went 20 of 23 from the free-throw line, a breath of fresh air given their recent struggles putting the ball in the cylinder. UConn now sits third in the Big East and has three Quad 1 wins.
After a sobering loss to Villanova, it was gut-check time for UConn. Red-hot Marquette was the winner of eight of its last nine and had already dispatched six ranked teams this season. In the middle of the juggernaut portion of the schedule, a loss at home to Marquette could have sent the season into a downward spiral. Shaka Smart and his ahead-of-schedule Golden Eagles were relentless, but the passion with which UConn played would not be denied. The Huskies relinquished two double-digit leads, but held on as a result of their rebounding and timely shot-making.
Decked out in some delightful throwback threads, the Huskies came out aggressive on both ends. Jordan Hawkins and Tyler Polley both connected on early 3s, and for all the silly discourse #online, the XL Center was rocking. Feeding off of Sanogo’s 14 first-half points, the U-C-O-N-N chants were flowing and you could sense the cathartic release from the squad.
Sanogo was established so deep into the post, all he had to do was turn and lay it up. UConn shot five of eight from beyond the arc for the half, forcing the Golden Eagles to respect the outside shot, giving Sanogo space with which to work. A Jordan Hawkins jumper at the buzzer sent the Huskies into the break leading by 10; arguably UConn’s most complete half of hoop ball since the Auburn tilt.
UConn had 15 fast break points to Marquette’s one, which is impressive considering Marquette’s 15.3 seconds per possession ranks eighth nationally and is two seconds faster than UConn. After ceding the rebounding margin its last two games, the Huskies got back to cleaning the glass at a nationally elite level, with Martin alone chipping in 10 for the half.
Here’s how Andre Jackson got Husky faithful to sit down to start the second half.
Sloppy UConn turnovers kept Marquette around, though, and back-to-back 3s cut UConn’s lead to three. Husky scourge Darryl Morsell — who missed the first meeting this year and humbled James Bouknight in the NCAA tournament last year for Maryland — was a menace on both ends.
With the physicality ramping up, the Huskies took advantage of the free points from the charity stripe. The refs tightened their whistles, but neither team got the memo. A 10-0 UConn run was quickly replaced by an 8-0 Marquette response. As many have said, it’s a game of runs, and a Martin 3-ball capped off a 6-0 run of UConn’s own.
With the Huskies leading by nine with 3:38 left and both teams in the double bonus, the narrative became whether the Huskies could close it out. A tough putback by Martin was followed by a heady inbounds steal by Jackson, and the Huskies went into clock-killing mode. In what became the biggest moment of the game, UConn cycled through four shot clocks, getting timely offensive rebounds or tip-outs to effectively ice the game.
Governor Ned Lamont, I now call on you to pass a bill that mandates UConn wear those throwback unis for the rest of the season. Get a dark blue version ready for the road. Nothing would unite the good people of Connecticut more.
Next up, the Huskies head to Cincinnati, Ohio — home of the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals — to face the Xavier Musketeers on Friday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on FS1.