UConn, Hurley have plenty of offensive options

Published on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 17:06

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Balance isn’t a necessity in college basketball. Just about every coach and fan base in the country would simply like to have the best player in the land on their roster and take their chances each night with a supporting cast.

That being said, it’s not a bad thing to have a few major contributors in your lineup capable of leading the way in a given game. The UConn men’s basketball team certainly appears to have the latter this season.

With senior wing Tyrese Martin’s 27-point effort against Butler Thursday, the Huskies have seen three different players - Martin, point guard R.J. Cole, and center Adama Sanogo - score at least 25 points in a game twice this season.

That kind of production has only happened three previous times in the last 30 years of UConn basketball. The 2009-10 team did it with Jerome Dyson, Stanley Robinson, and Kemba Walker. The 2003-04 team did it with Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor, and Rashad Anderson. And the 1993-94 team did it with Donyell Marshall, Ray Allen, and Brian Fair.

UConn coach Dan Hurley, whose team hosts Georgetown tonight in Storrs, has been extolling the team’s depth for some time.

“We’re a very hard team to beat because of the depth. That doesn’t mean we’re going to win every game. But we’re either going to win or we’re going to lose by a little,” Hurley said. “We have more chances that a couple guys can play well offensively and really give you double figures or 15-18.”

Cole, Sango, and Martin are each averaging between 14.2 and 15.7 points per game.

“I don’t think there’s another team in the country that has three guys getting 14-a-game or higher. We’re hard to prepare for,” Hurley said.

UConn (13-4, 4-2 Big East), which moved up to No. 20 in the latest Associated Press rankings, has indeed been on a little roll lately. The Huskies are wary of getting complacent, however, even with the Big East’s last-place team, Georgetown, coming to town.

Georgetown (6-10, 0-5) has lost six straight games, though it played well in Saturday’s 85-74 loss to league-leading Villanova Saturday.

“You don’t want to be a fat rat, as Kimani (Young) likes to say, and think that you can just show up,” Hurley said, referring to his associate head coach. “The point I made to the guys is Georgetown-UConn means something. It means a lot in college basketball.”

The Huskies have won four of their last five games, the only setback in that stretch their overtime loss to Seton Hall.

“We have a lot of confidence in who we are when we’re healthy and we’ve got close to our full team,” Hurley said. “Obviously we’ve got great potential. The mentality right now for us is we have to be really glued to our identity or else we’re not quite that team.”

Part of the identity Hurley speaks of includes playing what he calls “elite-level defense.”

“If we get away from our identity, we become a very ordinary, very vulnerable team,” Hurley said.

One are that Hurley fears his team is vulnerable to attack is in rebounding. Yes, the Huskies lead the Big East and are among the national leaders in offensive rebounds, but they haven’t been up to par in the coach’s mind on the defensive glass.

“It’s really hurt us a lot, quietly. We do such a great job on the offensive glass, that’s kind of been our Achilles heel,” Hurley said.

Still, UConn’s balance and size give it such a presence on offense that it’s the opposition’s defense usually scrambling for answers.

“With Adama back, we’ve got a really good mix of inside and out that makes it hard on the other team defensively,” Hurley said.

The Huskies, idle since finishing off a sweep of Butler Thursday, are adding a few more ingredients to their mix, too.

Junior guard Jalen Gaffney has struggled at times this season but came up big in the second Butler game with six points, two assists, three rebounds, and a key steal in 17 minutes of action.

“That was great for Jalen. He needed that. It was a real confidence-builder for him,” Hurley said. “I thought he was a lot tougher.”

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Wednesday, 26 January 2022 17:06. Updated: Wednesday, 26 January 2022 17:08.