It was a great Big East game on Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati, Ohio at Cintas Center, as No. 22 Xavier spoiled No. 2 UConn’s run at an undefeated season and knocked the Huskies to 14-1 with an 83-73 decision.
It was the first time UConn had truly struggled and the Huskies wilted late in a brutal road environment.
Dan Hurley. Cool it.
McGrath: This has happened a few times now. Late in a game, Dan Hurley will get called for a technical foul and derail his team's momentum. In this case, UConn had just battled to tie the game at 71-71 thanks to a couple of tremendous plays by Andre Jackson. While Zach Freemantle was taking his free throws after a shooting foul, Hurley was assessed a technical. It seemed as though the game flipped from that moment, as the crowd got just that much more into it and the Musketeers ended on a 12-2 run.
He is one of the most emotional coaches in college basketball. His players love him and he fights for them. Most of the time, it’s awesome and fun to watch. In times like these, Hurley needs to get better at turning the other cheek. It’s not the reason UConn lost, but it definitely didn’t help. It’ll be a lot easier for the Huskies to keep control in these close games if their leader can get better at it too.
Dan Madigan: It’s hard to tell exactly what Hurley did to earn that T, but it’s probably a combination of his reputation and him working the refs all game reaching a boiling point. Hurley should have been warned he was getting close to a T, and if he was, he needs to be able to walk that line and make sure he doesn’t cross it. UConn now has three games in a row with a technical foul — that’s a lot of free points to give away and something the Huskies can easily fix by trying to better maintain their composure.
Who’s going to score late?
McGrath: The past two times UConn has dropped a game, late scoring has been an issue. UConn made just one of its final 10 shots from the field and pretty quickly after Xavier went up six with 89 seconds to go, all hell broke loose. It was already desperation 3-pointer time, despite being able to play it out, down just two possessions. In the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Isaiah Whaley tied the game at 58-58 with 2:06 to go and UConn scored just five the rest of the way, while New Mexico State grabbed 12.
This sunk UConn against an elite scorer in Teddy Allen and discombobulation did it on Saturday. None of the Huskies’ 14 wins so far this year really came down to the wire, but they’re going to have to win a close game if they want
Live and die by the three
Madigan: UConn is a very good 3-point shooting team this year, with the Huskies shooting 36.5 percent from deep. But the eye test (and KenPom) reveals that UConn is leaning maybe a little too much on the deep ball this season. The Huskies are frequently taking threes early on in possessions, and while they’re usually good looks, it can really shift the momentum of the game if they don’t fall as UConn never really gets into any of their half-court sets. Nearly 45 percent of the Huskies’ field goal attempts are 3-pointers, which ranks 31st in college basketball.
Shooting a lot of threes isn’t a bad thing, especially for a team with quality shooters and NBA talent, but the Huskies need to make sure these attempts come in the flow of the game. With efficient bigs like Sanogo and Clingan down low and guards with solid midrange games like Tristen Newton and Jordan Hawkins, UConn’s offense could get even better by trading in early 3-point attempts for better, more efficient looks later in the shot clock.
Madigan: I understand it can’t be done for long stretches, but I would love to see Hurley roll out Sanogo and Clingan in the same lineup for a few minutes before a media timeout or the end of a half. It wouldn’t work for every team, but I think it would have made things tough for Xavier’s frontcourt of Zach Freemantle and Jack Nunge. Freemantle was just a little too big and strong for Alex Karaban to guard, and Clingan gave Nunge fits in his limited minutes. UConn really has to have one of them on the floor at all times, so it’s hard to pair them together for long stretches, but I think that the Huskies could really dominate teams with big frontcourts if they used Sanogo and Clingan in tandem. Sanogo has shown enough range offensively to stretch the floor and make this a possibility.