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No. 21 UConn men’s basketball loses at No. 23 Creighton, 56-53

The Huskies were a shoe size away from tying the game with 2.7 left, but couldn’t get it done on the road.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Creighton Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

UConn men’s basketball lost a close, ugly battle with No. 23 Creighton, 56-53, in Omaha on Saturday afternoon. The Huskies (19-7, 8-7 Big East) kept it close the entire way and briefly held the lead in the second half but couldn’t make enough plays on the road.

Adama Sanogo led the way with 17 points for the Huskies, and Jordan Hawkins put up 11 but struggled much of the game, going 4-13 from the field. The Blue Jays won their eighth-straight game and are now a half-game back from the conference lead with an 11-3 record.

Sanogo and the Huskies’ 18 offensive rebounds kept them in this one, but they ultimately struggled to convert, shooting just 32 percent from the field. Trey Alexander was the best offensive player for the Blue Jays, constantly hitting tough shots and finishing with 17 points.

The two teams traded blows early in the opening minutes as space was incredibly hard to come by. UConn’s 3-15 start on the offensive end was less than ideal but credit to Greg McDermott’s game plan locked UConn down on that end of the floor. Hawkins struggled mightily to get good looks, finishing the first half with zero points.

A five-minute scoring drought led to an 8-0 Creighton run that put them up nine early. There weren't many easy looks on either end, but the Bluejays were getting bailed out by star sophomore Alexander hitting some incredibly tough buckets at the end of the shot clock that kept them ahead by a healthy margin.

UConn clawed its way back and got within two at the half on the back of Sanogo, who hit three long-range shots in the first twenty minutes and was cleaning up some missed layups in transition.

When UConn ran the high ball screen and got the handler going downhill they were leaving Sanogo wide open from the top of the key, and he took advantage. The Kareem-Abdul Jabar hopeful led all scorers with thirteen at half. Alleyne was the Huskies’ next-highest scorer at just five points.

The second half started off with Hawkins finally getting on the board, hitting from long-range which also led to another positive development on the most important site on the internet. However, Alexander picked up where he left off by hitting in transition and from beyond the arc.

It stayed ugly on the offensive end, as UConn missed seven in a row during a three-minute stretch in the second half, until Sanogo remembered that he owns Kalkbrenner and buried him in the post once again for his 17th point of the game. This was a fun matchup all game, and in past years Kalkbrenner has played Sanogo very tough but this year has been a different story.

Creighton was not having much luck on that offensive end either. They went on a seven-and-a-half-minute stretch with no made field goals until Kalkbrenner got a bunny from Nemhard to give the Bluejays a six-point advantage.

After some traded buckets by Alexander and Hawkins, UConn was down three with the ball and 59 seconds left. Hurley tried the two-man game with Hawkins and Sanogo and got the switch they wanted, but Hawkins couldn’t get the drive to go over Kalkbrenner.

A surprise miss by Alexander at the free-throw line gave the Huskies another chance. UConn went to the pick-and-pop with Sanogo, who got another clean look for a three to tie but missed.

Hawkins swooped in to gobble up the board, ran to the top of the key, and buried what looked like the tying three-ball with 2.7 seconds left, but his toe was touching the line which left UConn one point short. They had one last attempt to tie the game with 2.3 left but couldn’t get a shot off.

The Huskies have an entire week off before facing Seton Hall at Gampel Pavilion next Saturday at noon. The game will air on FOX.