It wasn’t easy but UConn men earn win No. 20 in tough 64-55 victory over Seton Hall
It wasn’t pretty, but the 20th-ranked UConn men’s basketball team relied on its tough second-half defense to avoid another upset against Seton Hall, winning 64-55 in Gampel Pavilion on Saturday.
Despite an off day shooting from deep, UConn’s Jordan Hawkins used his refreshed legs after the week without games to make several highlight-reel finishes, including a pair of dunks that excited the crowd in Storrs. Though he made just three of his 11 shots from beyond the arc, Hawkins finished with a game-high 20 points.
“I just liked the fact that he got 16 shots up versus a defense that was very physical with him, mauling him off the ball, and he was able to make an adjustment, get downhill a little bit and obviously he hit that 3 to put it to 16 – that was an early killshot,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said.
Hurley called it a toughness game. Seton Hall entered as a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble in search of a big win. The Pirates, though they were without point guard Kadary Richmond (back), also have one of the best defenses in the country.
“We’ve lost these types of ugly, kind of mud-fight type of games,” Hurley said. “Physical, choppy types of games.”
UConn outrebounded the Pirates 39-25 in a team effort on the glass led by Andre Jackson, who finished with 10 boards. The Huskies scored 15 second-chance points off 14 offensive rebounds.
Defensively UConn held the visitors under 40% shooting from the field (39.6%) and under 20% from beyond the arc (18.2%).
“It kind of felt like how we were at the beginning of the season,” Jackson said, “just playing off one another, playing in transition, getting stops and pushing the pace. It was a lot of fun. I think we played with a lot of joy and that made it a lot of fun to play the game today.”
The win jumps UConn into fifth place in the Big East standings with four regular-season games left and marks the program’s second consecutive 20-win season.
Seton Hall’s defense made things difficult right away for the Huskies as its disruptive pressure on the perimeter at the start of the game forced several quick turnovers. The Pirates took advantage on offense, running to a four-point lead seven minutes in. UConn responded by stepping up its own defensive intensity before Donovan Clingan began a dunk contest at the 12:45 mark.
Including Clingan’s dunk, his 33rd of the season, 10 of the game’s next 14 points were scored above the rim. Hawkins soared for a highlight, then Jackson caught an alley-oop and K.C. Ndefo answered by throwing one down on the other end. Once Clingan flushed his second of the game, Hawkins took his talents behind the 3-point line to give the Huskies a 21-16 lead around the nine-minute mark.
The lead grew to as many as 11, twice, but UConn made just one of its last 11 shots from the field heading into halftime as Seton Hall, also struggling to score, got within six at the buzzer (33-27).
Though Hawkins was fouled on a 3-point attempt to start the second half, which happens just about every game, UConn continued its struggling on offense. The Huskies, having difficulty inbounding the ball, turned the ball over three times in the first four minutes of the second half as Al-Amir Dawes brought the Pirates within two.
UConn shot just 4-for-22 from the 3-point line for the game but slowly clawed away. Hassan Diarra, after making a layup of his own and grabbing an offensive rebound on a missed 3-pointer from Jackson, passed it back as Jackson cut hard to the basket for his third dunk of the game.
“He’s a perfect type of guard for this league,” Hurley said of Diarra. “Toughness-wise, competitive spirit, just in the fight. He just was very disruptive. He was very disruptive with [Ryan] Nembhard at Creighton, I thought he really bothered him, and I thought he bothered [Seton Hall’s] guards. He’s a disrupter.”
Jackson finished the game with 15 points, reaching double-digits for the first time since he had 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in the first loss of the season at Xavier on New Year’s Eve. He added 10 rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal.
A 14-0 scoring run beginning around the middle of the second half for the Huskies coincided with a Seton Hall scoring drought that lasted nearly seven minutes.
Hawkins had the sold-out Gampel Pavilion crowd on its feet when he landed his third 3-pointer of the game, extending UConn’s lead to 16 points with 6:02 left. Seton Hall, refusing to go away, capitalized on a series of Huskies turnovers to cut the UConn lead down to six with a minute to go. Jackson scored his 14th and career-high 15th point at the foul line to put the game out of reach.
Adama Sanogo missed two of the last three practices with a non-Covid related sickness, Hurley said. The junior center still managed to play more than 24 minutes on Saturday and scored eight points (3 of 5) with six rebounds and a pair of blocks.
“He told me before the game, like he tells me every day, he’s got my back and I got his and we all got each other,” Jackson said. “I already knew he was gonna show up whether he’s sick or not. I knew he was gonna go out there and do whatever it takes for us to win the game.”
UConn (20-7, 9-7 Big East) welcomes No. 24 Providence to campus for Senior Night and a “white-out” on Wednesday, the game beginning at 6:30 p.m.