How to watch Creighton at #17 Connecticut
Time: 6:30pm ET
Watch Online: Fox Sports Go
On Tuesday, February 1st, the Creighton Bluejays travel to Hartford and the XL Center to face off against the #17 Connecticut Huskies. Creighton is reeling after two losses that couldn’t have been more gut-wrenching: at Butler, after a barrage of three-pointers doomed the Jays, and vs Xavier, when a 17-point lead at halftime evaporated into a 10-point loss with the help of Jack Nunge, Nate Johnson, and Paul Scruggs. Connecticut, meanwhile, is the winner of five straight, with their only losses in conference coming to a dominant-looking Providence team and Seton Hall in Newark after a more than two-week layoff from basketball activities. UConn has clinched a double-digit win three of their last five games and looks to continue their hot streak against the Jays.
This is a tale of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Connecticut Huskies (15-4, 6-2) have not lost a game by more than four points all season, and last lost in overtime to a Seton Hall team that was playing UConn right after they came off of a COVID pause on the 8th of January. UConn might not be the hottest team in the Big East, but they are pretty close to it. The Creighton Bluejays (12-7, 4-4) are… not the hottest team in the Big East, and not even close. The Jays have gone 2-4 in their last six, a mark that a tournament-hopeful should never wish for. Now, the Jays need to right their path while also going into a hostile environment and playing one of the best teams in the Big East.
Creighton does not come into the game with positive experiences away from home. The Jays are just 2-3 away from home, with their lone two wins coming at Nebraska and at Marquette. Their last three attempts (at Villanova, at Xavier, at Butler) have been duds, with Creighton losing those three games by a total of 58 points. The problem for CU has been offense, having posted some horrible totals in their last seven games: 87 vs St. John’s has been the high mark, but that is just one of two instances where Creighton scored more than 70 points in their last seven games, or since 2022 rolled around. Some of the other notable scores have been bad: 60 in a win vs DePaul, 55 in a loss at Butler, 41 in a loss at Villanova.
As for UConn, their high-octane offense (ranking in the top-25 as of the 31st of January) has posted great totals in games with relatively low possessions. 76 points in 68 possessions. 75 points in 67 possessions. 96 points in a mere 66 possessions. These were all conference matchups, by the way. The Huskies have been scorching teams in conference (aside from a 57-point performance against DePaul and 53-point performance against Providence without the services of Adama Sanogo). Plus, it hasn't just been an offensive barrage, or a “keep up if you can” game with scoring. While the offense has been good, the defense has allowed less than a point per possession in four of their last five games.
The Huskies lead one of the most dynamic offenses and defenses thanks to Adama Sanogo. The sophomore is already one of the best bigs in the conference, putting up 15.5 PPG (8th in the Big East) and 8.4 RPG (2nd in the Big East) with 2.3 BPG (4th in the Big East) to go along with it. His jump has been one of the best in the conference, doubling his scoring output per game, nearly doubling the rebounding output per game, and doubling his blocks per game without increasing his fouls as much as you would suspect a big man with his 10.5 MPG increase would. UConn is not just Sanogo, though: R.J. Cole is averaging 16.1 PPG (good for 5th in the Big East) and 4.6 APG, Tyrese Martin is averaging 13.6 PPG with a 44.2% shooting clip from three, and five other Huskies are averaging more than 5 PPG. Focused, but not unwilling to share the scoring duties. This is what makes UConn a handful.
The man tasked with stopping Adama Sanogo on the other side is Ryan Kalkbrenner, whose rise is almost as significant as Sanogo’s. He nearly doubled his minutes (13.8 to 27.3 MPG), doubled his offensive and total rebounding (1.5 to 3.5 ORB; 3.5 to 7.1 TRB), doubled his points per game (5.9 to 12.1 PPG), doubled his blocks (1.2 to 3.1 BPG), and did this all while decreasing his fouls per game (1.5 to 1.3 FPG). His blocks per game rank in the top-15 nationally, his offensive rebounds in the top-20 nationally, his total rebounds 12th in the Big East, and (as if that all wasn’t enough) he ranks first in the Big East in true shooting percentage, a measure of field goals and free throws. Like Sanogo, he is not the only piece that Creighton has. Alex O’Connell has had a wonderful Big East conference season, averaging 12.8 PPG, Ryan Hawkins leads the Jays in rebounding at 7.3 RPG with 12.6 PPG, and Ryan Nembhard adds 11.8 PPG with 4.2 APG. Unlike UConn, however, the Jays do not have nearly the bench production that the Huskies have: only one player (Trey Alexander, 5.1 PPG) comes off the bench with more than 5 PPG.
For Creighton to win...
…they must to contain Sanogo. He is such a load offensively, and while he doesn’t play as many minutes as Cole or Martin, he is averaging a bunch of points per game. Stop Sanogo when he is on the floor, and you might be within striking distance.
For Connecticut to win...
…theyjust really need to force Creighton’s hand by wearing them down. You have the deeper bench and getting Ryan Kalkbrenner in foul trouble early could force Creighton into having tired legs from their bench and forwards in the second half, when they will need it most.
(Player statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference. Possession numbers courtesy of KenPom.)