Dan Hurley, Kimani Young will coach UConn men in potential get-right game against Butler

If there was any positive to take away from the UConn men’s basketball team’s latest loss, it came with the 17-point lead the Huskies held in the first half at Seton Hall and eventually blew in the game’s final minute.

It was a stretch of less than five minutes where the Huskies dominated their way to a 16-4 scoring run; turnovers were forced, offensive rebounds were grabbed, shots were contested and on the other end, converted in transition. There were signs that the effort and efficiency of the first 14 games might not be completely lost, just stuffed away by the complacency that head coach Dan Hurley referred to early on as “human nature.”

Part of human nature, also, is returning to old habits.

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On Sunday, the 15-5 Huskies look back at the Huskies of old for their first Big East rematch against Butler, this time at the XL Center five weeks later. The first time the two teams played this season, Dec. 17 in Indianapolis, the Huskies dominated inside and broke away in the second half for a 22-point win that began conference play.

That game remains UConn’s only in-conference victory on the road this season.

The last time UConn played in the XL Center, against St. John’s last Sunday, fans headed for the exits early and Hurley expressed disappointment in his team, acknowledging that the home crowd had “no reason to be behind [them] in the second half.” That was an 11-point loss to a bottom-three team in the conference, though UConn with its higher expectations is only a game ahead in the Big East standings.

For Hurley, who will return to the sidelines along with associate head coach Kimani Young after they both tested positive for Covid on Tuesday, the goal will be to return to what worked.

Adama Sanogo, who’s struggled recently, scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in his first matchup against the Bulldogs’ talented center, Manny Bates, who has been out with a knee injury and is unlikely to play Sunday. Donovan Clingan added four points on 2 of 2 shooting with eight rebounds and a block to bolster the 18-point advantage UConn had scoring in the paint and the 24-rebound advantage it had on the glass.

Here’s what to know

Site: XL Center, Hartford

Time: Noon

Series: UConn leads, 6-0

Last meeting: Dec. 17, 2022 – UConn 68, Butler 46 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis

TV: FOX, Tim Brando and Donny Marshall

Radio: UConn Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN, Mike Crispino and Wayne Norman

Notes

Without Bates: After a three-point, five-rebound performance in Butler’s Jan. 10 loss to St. John’s, Bulldogs head coach Thad Matta told the Indianapolis Star that Bates had been playing through a knee injury and “had a procedure” done to address it.

In his absence since, Butler rode the 3-point shooting of Simas Lukosius and his 28 points to a win over Villanova, and was trounced by Creighton despite an 18-point effort from Lukosius that featured his 4 of 5 shooting from deep. Against UConn, Lukosius was held to eight points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field, both made buckets being 3-pointers.

As a team, Butler shot 3-for-14 from 3-point range against UConn the first time around but has shot 48.6% from beyond the arc (17-for-35) in the last two games without Bates. On the other side, UConn has been one of the best teams in the country at limiting opponent 3-point attempts. The Huskies have allowed just 293 shots from beyond the arc (second-fewest in the nation) and forced opponents to shoot a mere 26.6% on those shots which ranks No. 5 among the 352 Division I programs.

The Bulldogs are one of the worst rebounding teams in the country, ranking No. 334 in boards per game (31.1), and in the two games without Bates have been outrebounded, 74-48. With the way UConn has shot over the last six games (146-for-361, 40.4% from the field), every extra shot attempt will be critical. The Huskies had 71 shot attempts against Butler because of the “body blows” they landed in the first meeting, which is 11 more than the team’s average over that six-game stretch (60.2 shots per game).

Jordan Hawkins is cooking quietly: Since a 1-for-8 shooting night on the road at Marquette Jan. 11, UConn’s sophomore shooter Hawkins has been strong out of the gate in the Huskies’ last two games. He made his first two 3-point attempts in the first three minutes of both, and followed a career-high 31 points against St. John’s with 13 at Seton Hall, though he struggled with the Pirates’ pressure and scored just four points during the second-half collapse.

Hawkins has shot 13-for-24 (54%) from the field in UConn’s last two games – 14% above his season average – and has made seven of his last 15 attempts from beyond the arc (46.7%). But, as he succinctly said after the disappointing loss to the Johnnies, “it doesn’t matter, we lost.”