UConn men’s basketball used a strong second half and another big game from Jordan Hawkins to cruise to a convincing win over No. 20 Providence, defeating the Friars 87-69 on Senior Night at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies are now 21-7 on the season, 10-7 in the Big East and have won five of their last six.
“Great performance by the boys tonight,” Dan Hurley said postgame. “That atmosphere tonight from the anthem on energized the group. It’s an incredible advantage to play in here.”
Jordan Hawkins once again led the way for the Huskies, as the standout sophomore dropped 20 points, including 11 in the second half, to lead UConn to victory. Hawkins’ performance was his eighth game with 20 or more points in Big East play.
“He’s grown up through the course of the year through some successes and some not so great games,” Hurley said of Hawkins. “The team has done a better job screening for him and locating him in transition..the kid is mentally tough, he believes in himself.”
The Huskies also once again dominated in every aspect down low, out-rebounding the Friars 40-20, and outscoring them 42-24 in the paint.
UConn and PC traded blows back-and-forth for much of the first half before the Huskies inched ahead in the final minute of a half that featured no free throws. Early on, Providence went back to the well of relying on star big man Bryce Hopkins, who torched UConn for 27 points earlier this year and started the game with two quick buckets over Alex Karaban for an early lead.
But Tristen Newton answered with a 3-pointer for his first points of the night to take a 5-4 lead, and the Huskies remained on top through the under-12 timeout before a Hopkins three put the Friars up 16-14.
While UConn’s offense was never pretty in the first half — the Huskies committed eight turnovers as they looked to push the pace in transition — it converted a handful of broken plays into points courtesy of some hustle.
Hurley used his bench sparingly early on, but Nahiem Alleyne still managed to make a big-time impact. The Virginia Tech transfer answered Hopkins’ three with one of his own to put UConn back ahead, then hit another with 19 seconds left to give the Huskies a five-point advantage heading into halftime. He finished with six points at the half, nine on the night and is now 6-13 from three in his last four games.
Hawkins kept the momentum going to start the second half as the sophomore racked up five points in 66 seconds to extend the Huskies’ lead to 10.
HAWK HAS GAMPEL ON #WeSeason | @golive23 pic.twitter.com/jdb6Looumc— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) February 23, 2023
Much like the first half, Providence punched back, and pulled within two after Karaban picked up three fouls in a minute early in the half, largely trying to keep Hopkins in check. With Karaban out, they PC used a 6-0 run to get within 48-46 with 15 minutes to play, but UConn wouldn’t let it get any closer.
Hawkins was once again fouled on a 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession, and hit two of three to stop the Friars’ run in its tracks. From there, the Huskies methodically grew the lead larger and larger as Providence went over nine minutes without a field goal. By the time PC snapped its scoring drought with a putback from Ed Croswell, UConn had extended the lead 17 with six minutes remaining.
After the Friars’ initial scare, the biggest threat UConn faced was from within after Hawkins rolled his right ankle while throwing a pass in transition to Donovan Clingan with eight minutes to play. Hawkins limped off the court, got attention from trainer James Doran and eventually headed to the locker room, but returned a few minutes later to a loud ovation from a raucous Gampel crowd and finished the game without issue.
UConn continued pouring it on in the game’s final minutes, stretching the lead to as many as 21 after a 3-pointer from Karaban. The redshirt freshman finished the day with 16 points and eight rebounds while mostly neutralizing Hopkins, who also scored 16 points and never took over the game like he did in the Friars’ win earlier this season.
“To play [Hopkins] even is a huge plus,” Hurley said. “He took some things personal that were commented on regarding that matchup last time around. [Hopkins] is an NBA player but Karaban is too.”
Adama Sanogo (16 points, five rebounds) and Newton (12 points, seven rebounds, seven assists) joined Karaban and Hawkins in double figures for the Huskies. Clingan added seven points in 12 minutes off the bench, while Andre Jackson once again contributed all over with four points, six rebounds and four assists.
Next up, UConn heads to Madison Square Garden to take on St. John’s and avenge the Red Storm’s surprising win at the XL Center earlier this season. The game will be broadcast on CBS with tipoff set for 12:00 p.m.