The Huskies entered Monday night’s contest in Chicago riding high, as they checked into the AP Poll for the first time since October 31st, 2016 this Monday afternoon at #25.
Even with the excitement from Husky fans over their team’s long-anticipated return to the vaunted AP Poll Top 25, DePaul was certainly not ready to roll out the red carpet for them. The Blue Demons, who lost by 20+ to UConn just over two weeks ago, played as tough as could be throughout the entire game. Although their effort and the Huskies’ sloppy play combined for a close game down the stretch, UConn eventually pulled away with the 60-53 win.
Connecticut entered their third consecutive game with little to no contribution from their star guard, James Bouknight, who was out again nursing a hyperextended elbow. As such, Hurley looked towards his veterans for scoring, like Tyler Polley. Polley had shot 10/16 from 3-point territory the past two games, earning him Big East Player of the Week.
After jumping out to an early lead, missed shots and sloppy turnovers by UConn created an unexpected nail-biter for the UConn faithful. In addition, the Huskies were uncharacteristically out-rebounded. As the second-best team in offensive rebounding in the country, the Huskies (12) were bested by DePaul (14). DePaul also got the best of them in total rebounding, ending with 39, which was good for 10 more than UConn by game’s end.
Although Polley contributed on 3-8 from “downtown” in tonight’s game, the go-to guy for the Huskies turned out to be Tyrese Martin, the Junior Rhode Island-transfer. Martin, at 6’6 and 215 pounds, used his strength and toughness to muscle down low, earning him a 7-14 stripe from the field. He also tallied four rebounds, along with having more steals (five) than all of the DePaul squad (three). RJ Cole, the Junior Howard-transfer, also showed flashes while totaling 12 points with two 3-pointers.
Darious Hall, the 6’7 Forward, netted 10 points for DePaul. Charlie Moore and Javon Liberty-Freeman had nine and eight points, respectively. The Blue Demons hung tough for most of the game, but their 24 turnovers proved to be detrimental down the stretch.
Leitao: "I thought for most, if not all of the 40 minutes, that our competition level was where it needed to be against a really good team that is as solid as any team in this league. We've got to continue to address what is an achilles for us right now, which is [turnovers]."— Lawrence Kreymer (@kreyme8) January 12, 2021
Although a more stressful win for UConn than they expected, Dan Hurley and his staff can be pleased to see secondary scorers step up in the wake of their best player’s absence. Dave Leitao, the head coach of DePaul, can be impressed with his team’s grit and toughness despite careless mistakes.
The Huskies, who have the rest of the week off following the postponement of Friday’s game due to COVID-19 complications in the Villanova program, look to resume play with a healthy Bouknight at home against St. John’s on January 18th. The Blue Demons look to bounce back on the road against Coach Ewing and Georgetown on Wednesday.