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Huskies Burst Seton Hall’s Bubble

UConn bigs take over to secure a key win over Seton Hall

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Seton Hall Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

This game was an emotional game for Seton Hall. Senior night, fans for the first time, and of course, a chance to prove they belong in the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, with a win, UConn could secure a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.

Seton Hall started fast, and UConn got off to a slow start, jumping out to 7-0 lead within the first few minutes as Seton Hall’s Jared Rhoden looked like a one-man wrecking crew. For most of the first half, UConn seemed to be treading water. The Huskies used their defense to keep the game within striking distance, but both teams looked sloppy on offense (both shooting under 40% on the half). Seton Hall led for all but three seconds in the first half, the final three seconds. With the clock running down, down by one, James Bouknight drove right and Isaiah Whaley got free for a put back layup to give the Huskies their first lead, 27-26, going into half time. The Huskies would never relinquish that lead again.

UConn ended the first half on an 8-0 run to take the lead into the locker room. The Huskies picked up right where they left off to start the second half. However, giving Seton Hall a chance, James Bouknight picked up his third foul with 16:58 remaining and went to the bench. The Huskies led 33-28 at the time. Eight games without Bouknight seemed to have paid off. In his absence, the Huskies not only protected, but extended their lead. RJ Cole (14 points) has become a calming presence on the floor and always seems to hit a shot when needed. The big men also came through. Isaiah Whaley scored a team high 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. He also helped set the tone early, getting 2 blocks as Sandro Mamukelashvili tried to take Whaley to the rim in the first half. Apparently Mamu forgot Isaiah Whaley leads the league in blocks per game and has impeccable timing. Whaley had some help from his front court partner, Adama Sanogo. Once thought to be a sure-fire Seton Hall commit, Sanogo poured in 16 points, had 9 rebounds, and added in 2 blocks for good measure. It’s been a while since UConn had big men dominate a game. Whaley and Sanogo combined for 33 of the Huskies 69 points, and pulled down nearly half of the team’s rebounds.

James Bouknight (16 points, 6 rebounds) returned with 9:53 remaining in the game, the Huskies had built a comfortable 48-39 lead. The game toggled back and forth, but it never really felt like Seton Hall could get over the hump. Bouknight closed the game at the foul line, making 7 of 8 attempts, perhaps ending Seton Hall’s NCAA tournament hopes.

With the win, the Huskies secured a 3rd place finish in the Big East, one spot better than the preseason coaches poll. The UConn Huskies seem to be peaking at the right time. UConn is 4-1 since James Bouknight returned from his elbow injury, with a lone loss coming at Villanova. With one game remaining against Georgetown, the Huskies are looking like a well-balanced team. They rank 25th overall in KenPom, with the 32nd ranked adjusted offense (3rd in the Big East) and 25th ranked adjusted defense (1st in the Big East). Don’t let the Huskies get hot in March.