UConn men’s basketball rolled into the Madison Square Garden on Hellcats and Trackhawks and then hung with the wolves, defeating the Providence Friars 73-66 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
UConn was up by as much as 26 in the second half, but gave up a 26-5 run late to make it a two-possession game with under a minute left.
Clutch guard play from the three-headed dragon of Jordan Hawkins, Tristen Newton, and Andre Jackson helped seal the deal. Jackson continued his run of stellar play, scoring the game’s first points on a three and stuffing the staff sheet with nine points, 11 rebounds, and six assists.
Hawkins led all scorers with 19 points while Newton added 16. Adama Sanogo chipped in 10 points and five rebounds on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting effort. Despite 18 turnovers, UConn succeeded by holding the Friars to 26% from three and winning the rebounding margin 35-25.
Andre Jackson —snubbed on Big East honor rolls and defensive player of the year — played with a monster-sized chip on his shoulder, attacking the basket early and providing his usual lockdown defense. He was throwing down thunderous dunks hoping to set the tone for his team.
Joey Calcaterra provided a spark off the bench, assisting on a Tristen Newton three, hitting one of his own, and drawing a charge. The Huskies were well-drilled on Providence’s screen-and-rolls and held tough in the paint when Bryce Hopkins or Ed Croswell set up shop down low. On offense, the ball movement was so stellar at times it made you forget about the 10 first-half turnovers.
Just as the Providence crowd started to wake up, Andre Jackson did this, with a nifty little assist from Donovan Clingan.
ANDRE WITH THE HAMMER! pic.twitter.com/JhMpcY3nmv— UConn Men's Basketball (@UConnMBB) March 9, 2023
A Hawkins pull-up three, followed by another one from Calcaterra, blew the roof off the Garden. UConn entered the halftime break up 15 after nearly a perfect half of basketball. The Huskies were cruising.
The start of the second half saw more of the same. Back-to-back threes from Karaban and Newton stretched the lead to 21 before most Providence fans returned to their seats. Hawkins and Newton were hitting shots and Andre Jackson continued to do absurd things with the basketball. There was a play where he forced a steal, broke the press with a behind-the-back dribble, and dished a no-look to Naheim Alleyne for a three that probably elicited the loudest roar of the night from the Husky faithful.
The Huskies got a little too carried away though (probably because the Bud Lights were $20 instead of $2), and the lead started to dwindle.
Newton missed a tomahawk slam and came down awkwardly. Alex Karaban picked up his fourth foul, and after a few sloppy turnovers, some Providence threes, and too-easy buckets from Bryce Hopkins, UConn found itself up only 10 with 4:30 to play. Cooley stuck with the press-into-two-three zone and the Huskies went cold. After back-to-back turnovers and a 26-5 run, it was a five-point game with Friar fans joined by neutrals rooting for the comeback.
Hawkins and Noah Locke traded threes, but a Sanogo layup off a slipped screen gave UConn a seven-point lead with 1:39 to play. A Karaban three put it back to seven, only to be matched by another Locke trey. The Friars had a chance to cut it to four, but Jackson secured a bouncy rebound to keep things in control.
Tristen Newton — who came off the bench for the first time this season, finished the final two minutes of the game with two assists and two made free throws. Combined with clutch plays from Hawkins and Jackson, the Huskies took care of business late with smart play, good ballhandling, and hitting their free throws.
Next up, the Huskies take on Marquette Friday at 6:30 p.m., back at the Garden.