Led by 26 points from Adama Sanogo and a double-double from Tyrese Martin, UConn men’s basketball survived a late DePaul rally to win 75-68 Saturday and secure the 3-seed in the upcoming Big East Tournament.
In front of a packed senior day crowd at Gampel Pavilion, the Huskies were paced early by Sanogo, who scored 12 of the team’s first 14 points. UConn dominated in the paint during the first half, converted on multiple second chance opportunities and opened up an 11-point lead thanks to a put-back by Tyrese Martin with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
UConn went to the locker room up 40-29 after Andre Jackson found Sanogo for an easy lay-up as time expired. Sanogo finished the half with 20 points, a career high in the first half.
The Huskies continued to control the game for much of the second half. Although Sanogo cooled off — he scored just six points before fouling out — Martin and Isaiah Whaley shouldered much of the burden. Martin finished the game with 19 points and 16 rebounds, his fifth double-double of the season while Whaley contributed 10 points and 6 rebounds.
For much of the game, UConn had managed to stymie DePaul’s Javon Freeman-Liberty, the Big East’s leading scorer. By limiting his production, the Huskies opened up an 18-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play.
In fact, the Huskies led by 17 — 70-53 — with 4:29 remaining. Then Freeman-Liberty showed why he’s one of the best players in the conference. He led a furious DePaul charge, scoring 11 points down the stretch, including three 3-pointers, and the UConn lead was quickly whittled down to just five with 1:09 left. The Huskies ultimately survived thanks to some clutch free throws from Tyler Polley that sealed the victory.
Freeman-Liberty led DePaul with 22 points. Brandon Johnson also had a solid afternoon with 14 points and David Jones added 13 points.
In addition to a significant edge on the boards — UConn out-rebounded DePaul by 18 — the Huskies also were much stronger from the free-throw line. UConn went 14 of 17 from the charity stripe, while DePaul was just 6 of 14.
Overall, it was a strong showing from UConn despite a tough night from RJ Cole. The senior guard was just 1 for 9 from the floor and finished with just three points. Luckily, the combination of Sanogo, Martin and Whaley filled in the gaps in production.
With the win, UConn clinches the 3-seed in the Big East Tournament. The Huskies are slated to play at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.