No. 15 UConn men’s basketball has struggled over the past three weeks. It started with a New Year’s Eve loss to Xavier, and a 1-5 stretch following Wednesday’s deflating loss to Seton Hall while head coach Dan Hurley and associate head coach Kimani Young due to COVID-19.
Sunday saw a complete reversal as the Huskies cruised past Butler, 86-56.
Jordan Hawkins led the way with 20 points while Adama Sanogo had an impressive double-double with 17 points and 14 boards. Alex Karaban (15 points) was 3-4 from beyond the arc, while Tristen Newton was 50 percent from the field and added 11 points.
The Husky offense was encouragingly assertive early on. The Huskies had a variety of offensive sets that got different players involved around the basket and though they were just 4-13 from the field over the first eight-plus minutes of the game, five different players scored, including a deep 3-pointer from Hassan Diarra on the left wing.
UConn’s defense was stingy early, as Butler started 2-11 from the field. The Bulldogs attempted just eight free throws in the first half. If not for Chuck Harris, the Huskies’ 22-point halftime lead could have been greater. Harris had half of his team’s six field goals after 20 minutes.
Unlike the Seton Hall game, UConn held on to its big lead and kept the intensity up. Donovan Clingan stayed out of foul trouble and was active on the pick-and-roll, while Newton had seven points. Overall, UConn was 10-14 on layups and dunks and 3-9 from beyond the arc, an efficient offensive performance with just two midrange shots.
Dan Hurley’s team had been struggling with long scoring droughts in the second halves of games, including 6:51 without a field goal against Seton Hall, a stretch that was only ended by the game’s conclusion.
On Sunday, UConn did slightly better. The Huskies opened up on a 15-2 run and stayed aggressive in the lane while also taking smart 3-point shots.
Butler was just 6-12 on layups on the afternoon and after shooting 6-25 from the field in the first half, the Bulldogs were 8-24 to start the second half before making their final three shots over the past two minutes, after UConn had brought on its walk-ons and the game was well out of reach.
The Huskies (16-5, 5-5 Big East) are now halfway through the conference season. The second half begins on Wednesday against Xavier at Gampel Pavilion. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. on FS1.