Jan. 22—HARTFORD — The UConn men's basketball team was desperately looking for something positive Sunday afternoon.
The Huskies had lost three games in a row and five of their last six.
Thanks to a strong performance from Adama Sanogo, the team got its wish.
Sanogo recorded a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds while adding two blocks as the 15th-ranked Huskies topped Butler 86-56 in a Big East game before an announced sellout crowd of 15,564 at the XL Center Sunday afternoon.
UConn (16-5, 5-5 Big East) had previously beaten the Bulldogs 68-46 in Indianapolis to open Big East play Dec. 17.
Sunday was coach Dan Hurley's first game back after missing the team's previous game at Seton Hall after testing positive for COVID-19.
"Obviously great to be back, just being out there with the boys," Hurley said. "It was just good to see us kind of resemble at times there the team that we've been for a much larger part of the season than for the last couple of weeks."
UConn began the game on an 8-2 run and never gave up the momentum as Butler (11-10, 3-7) struggled to shoot. The Bulldogs were 1-for-9 in the first 6:22 of the game— including missing their first five shots. The Bulldogs finished the half 6-for-25 (24 percent).
A three-pointer from Connor Turnbull cut Butler's deficit to 11-8 with 12:52 left in the first half, but the Huskies responded with a 24-7 run over the next 8:45 to take their largest lead to that point. Jordan Hawkins had seven points on run.
UConn held Butler without a field goal for a 7:02 stretch in the first half, ending with a layup from Simas Lukosius that made it 41-23 with 1:06 left in the half.
The Huskies scored the final four points of the half — a layup from Tristen Newton with 44 seconds left and two free throws from Alex Karaban with 1.8 seconds left.
"Very excited to get the lead and kind of make an impact on the first half," Karaban said. "But just staying focused because the coaches did remind us of what happened against Seton Hall. So, we wanted to come out with the first punch unlike what we did on Wednesday."
The Huskies saw a 14-point halftime lead slip away in Wednesday's loss at Seton Hall.
Hawkins paced the team with 11 points in the half while Karaban and Sanogo each had nine, with Sanogo also contributing nine rebounds. Chuck Harris led Butler with 14 points.
The hosts shot 45.5 percent (15-of-33) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes. The Huskies out-rebounded the Bulldogs 27-11, including 10-1 on the offensive glass, and had 22 points in the paint compared to Butler's six.
UConn continued the momentum to start the second half. The Huskies embarked on a 15-2 run over the first 5:47 of the half, including scoring the first nine points. A jumper from Harris with 15:52 to play accounted for Butler's first points of the half.
The hosts led by as many as 37 in the second half and never saw the lead dip below 30 following the run to open the half.
Hawkins scored a game-high 20 points in the win while adding six rebounds. Karaban chipped in 15 points and five rebounds while Newton had 11 points.
Samson Johnson also returned to the court for the first time since the season opener midway through the second half Sunday. The sophomore forward had missed the previous 19 games with a right foot injury.
He finished with two points on 1-for-4 shooting, two rebounds, an assist and a turnover in 6:30 of action.
"It was good to get the jitters out for him," Hurley said. "Obviously, the game situation allowed it."
UConn finished the game with a 48-22 advantage on the glass, including 18-4 offensive. The Huskies also shot 48.4 percent (31-for-64) compared to 32.7 percent (17-of-52) for Butler.
Harris finished with 16 points for Butler while Lukosious had 12. The Bulldogs were without their leading scorer and rebounder Manny Bates for the third straight game.
"We thought possibly he could go today," Butler coach Thad Matta said. "He just still doesn't feel well. And like I told them, I'm not going to play a guy injured or anything like that. Hopefully we can get him back and get him healthy because we definitely need him. ... We've kind of been doing this all year long with game-time decisions. It's not going real well for us right now."
The Huskies return to the court Wednesday when they host No. 8 Xavier. Tipoff at Gampel Pavilion is set for 6:30 p.m. (FS1). The Muskateers topped UConn 83-73 in Cincinnati Dec. 31, the Huskies' first loss of the season.
For coverage of UConn football and men's basketball as well as area high school and local youth sports, follow Adam Betz on Twitter: @AdBetz1, Facebook: Adam Betz — Sports Writer, and Instagram: @AdBetzJI.