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For much of a tense night, the UConn men did everything but score. Then down the stretch, the Huskies did it all.
Behind James Bouknight and R.J. Cole, UConn dominated the final 10 minutes to beat Georgetown, 70-57, Tuesday night in Big East basketball at McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C. The win bolstered UConn’s NCAA Tournament hopes, where a loss would have been a huge blow to a team on the bubble.
Bouknight scored 20 points, 12 in the second half, with 10 rebounds, and Cole scored 17, 14 in the second half, with seven assists. Isaiah Whaley had seven points and seven rebounds before fouling out, Adama Sanogo had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Huskies started out with a 10-0 lead, but then went ice cold as the Hoyas slowly cut down the lead and caught up at the end of the half. But as the Huskies were missing shot after shot, they never stopped hustling for loose balls, and chasing and grappling for rebounds, especially on the offensive boards, and their defense remained solid.
Then, finally, shots began to fall in the second half. Trailing by one with 13:51 to play, UConn outscored the Hoyas 30-16 from there. The Huskies finished with a 46-30 edge in rebounds, 18-9 on offense. On offense, UConn turned it over 11 times in the first half, but only twice in the second, and moved the ball much better. The Huskies shot 45.5 percent, though they went 2-for-11 on 3-pointers.
UConn (11-6, 8-6 in the Big East) next plays at home against Marquette on Saturday, another game that’s a must-win to stay on the right side of the postseason border. Qudus Wahab scored 18 for Georgetown (7-11, 5-8).
The Huskies came out loose and aggressive in the high-pressure situation, making their first five shots, three by Sanogo, two by Bouknight, to take a 10-0 lead, holding the Hoyas scoreless the first 3:30.
Jamorko Pickett finally scored to get Georgetown on the board, and the Huskies, though their defense remained stellar, went frigid on offense. Bouknight, who came out for a breather, was bottled up by Georgetown and couldn’t find shots. His teammate couldn’t hit, whether open or not, from long or point-blank range. After the hot start, the Huskies made only 7 of 29 the rest of the half, and turned it over 11 times, many unforced, and went scoreless for over six minutes late in the half.
The Hoyas crawled back into the game and took the lead despite their own offensive struggle. UConn blocked four shots and pressured Georgetown into nine turnovers. The Hoyas were 7-for-27, but got the ball inside and drew the Huskies into foul trouble, making 9 of 11 from the line. Wahab was especially effective during this stretch for Georgetown, hitting two free throws to put his team ahead 23-22 with 1:38 left.
A lob pass from Cole shook Bouknight loose for a dunk, ending the long UConn drought, but Georgetown went to the half with the last shot, a 3-pointer by Timothy Ighoefe, and a 26-25 lead.
Both teams began to shoot better in the second half. Cole, 1-for-7 in the first half, hit his first three shots of the second. But the lead continue to shift back and forth. When Sanogo blocked a shot at one end, and scored off a pass from Bouknight at the other, UConn opened a 49-44 lead with 8:58 to play.
Dom Amore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org