It was a battle but UConn men’s basketball overcame Seton Hall, 64-55, in Gampel Pavilion Saturday to improve to 20-7 overall and 9-7 in the Big East.
Jordan Hawkins led UConn with 20 points and five rebounds while Adama Sanogo added eight points and six rebounds. Andre Jackson stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists in one of his most complete performances of the season.
As mentioned in our preview, limiting turnovers and keeping Hall off the charity stripe were keys to success today. The Huskies had 18 turnovers — a persistent, mind-numbing red flag — but held the Pirates to only 15 free throw attempts.
Seton Hall lost Husky killer Kadary Richmond five minutes into the first half with a back injury, but it was 15 second-chance points from UConn that ultimately flipped the game, with Jackson’s four offensive rebounds giving second life to forced shots. UConn dominated on the boards overall as well, 39-25, and in offensive rebounds, 14-7.
The turnovers and nearly-blown lead at the end leave a sour taste, but the Pirates are a top-20 defensive team in the country and it showed.
Hall’s ball pressure bothered UConn from the jump, with five Husky turnovers in the first eight minutes. A Hawkins hammer and forced jump ball from Naheim Alleyne restored the energy levels in Storrs.
Dan Hurley told his squad in the huddle, up 14-12, “Stops, activity, and out-in-transition are our best looks. Continue to attack the paint. They’re aggressively denying things.”
Attack the paint they did.
Six early points — all putbacks — for Donovan Clingan helped pace UConn when Seton Hall’s ball pressure meant few open looks. The Pirates flashed matchup zone, and Hawkins responded with some inspiringly assertive play.
Five dunks, 11 offensive rebounds, and 20 first-half points in the paint compensated for a dismal 3-14 clip from downtown for the Huskies, who were up as much as 11 in the first half. They were up six after going on a 4:40 scoring drought at the end.
Eight fouls in the first four minutes of the second half kept either side from doing too much early. The Huskies went over nine minutes — dating back to the first half — without a basket, and Seton Hall cut the lead down to four three times. The Pirates’ first-shot defense was stellar, but second-chance and fast break points kept UConn afloat.
For about a 10-minute stretch, it turned into a frenetic, back-and-forth rock fight, with both teams trading frantic drives to the cup. UConn held Hall scoreless for almost seven minutes and stretched its lead back to 11. A Jackson block and Hawkins transition three put the nail in the coffin, up 16 with 5:50 left.
Or so we thought.
Seton Hall’s dogged ball pressure and a lack of sharpness from UConn’s guards made it a six-point game with 1:30 left. The Husky offensive possessions were looking worse and worse. With 35 seconds left and Hall attacking off another UConn turnover, a Sanogo block and converted free throws from Jackson prevented a collapse.
After a tough loss at Creighton, UConn needed this win to jump Seton Hall in the conference standings for the coveted fifth seed in the Big East. If the Huskies hold on, they won’t have to play on Wednesday in the Big East Tournament and will end up in the 4/5 game at MSG, 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.
As far as the NCAA tournament resume, the Huskies were unable to crack the Top 16 of the first bracket reveal, but there is a lot of basketball left to be played for UConn to reverse the narrative that their best basketball is behind them. Don’t forget, the analytics still say UConn is elite.
Next up, the Huskies have a home showdown on Wednesday, Feb. 22, vs. Providence. The game will be televised on FS1 at 6:30 p.m. ET.