The Huskies couldn’t quite get it done in their first game in over two weeks.
Despite leading for much of the game, the Huskies let Seton Hall hang around and lost in overtime, dropping to 1-2 in conference play. Here are some takeaways from the first UConn men’s basketball game since December 21st.
An impressive return to action
Kidwai: UConn lost but all things considered it was a really good performance on the road against a ranked team. The fact that it took overtime and a 27-point explosion from a Seton Hall bench player to take the Huskies down shows how hard of an out they are.
There are no moral victories when expectations are as high as they are for this team, but it’s also early January, not March, and the team was coming off a holiday + COVID break and may not have also been at full strength because of it. Before the game, Hurley said his whole roster was available with some minutes restrictions.
It is really disappointing that UConn could have won this one, and even had multiple chances to go ahead late despite not playing as well in the second half. The execution on last-second possessions, in particular, was concerning. With the game on the line at the end of regulation, the Huskies couldn’t get a good shot up. They didn’t even get any shot up at all at the end of overtime.
But I think Adama Sanogo going for 18 and 16 while four other players scored in double figures and three others had at least five, and the team shooting 47% from the field and 60% (!) from three, on the road, shows us that this team is pretty damn good.
Goodman: For most of the game, when Seton Hall gained momentum and got their home crowd going, UConn responded with a bucket or stop almost every time.
In the first half, UConn led 36-28 and was rolling on offense. Seton Hall then scored two quick buckets, both set up by senior point guard Bryce Aiken, to pull within three. Dan Hurley called a time-out and UConn responded with a beautiful backdoor dish from Whaley to Gaffney for the easy deuce.
Bryce Aiken then had a tough drive immediately after that against Gaffney, which got the crowd right back in it. Jordan Hawkins responded with a corner three, another crowd quieter.
With the half winding down, Seton Hall’s Tyrese Samuel had a tough put-back dunk off a Bryce Aiken miss, and the crowd woke up once again. UConn then turned it over but had their best defensive possession of the game, standing their ground in the paint as Seton Hall missed three short-range shots and Whaley finally grabbed the board to put the possession to rest.
Early in the first half, Aiken nailed a three to take the lead back for the first time since five minutes into the game when the score was 13-11. R.J. Cole responds with a three to take the lead back less than a minute later.
Tyrese Martin had two massive three-pointers late in the second half. The first came off two straight blocks by the Pirates that got the crowd fired up and Martin hit a three to regain the lead. When UConn was down four in overtime, crowd noise peaking, desperate for a bucket, Martin drills a deep contested pull-up three to bring the Huskies back within one.
You get the idea. In most situations that Seton Hall was able to regain some momentum and appeared prime for a scoring run, UConn heeded the call and was able to keep their head above water, staying in front of the Pirates most of the game. The Huskies fell just short at the end, but the toughness shown in this one is definitely a good sign moving forward.
An anomaly of sorts
Goodman: The biggest headline in this game was no doubt the performance of Kadary Richmond. Once a prized recruit out of Brooklyn, Richmond transferred to Seton Hall after one year at Syracuse. He came into the game averaging about seven points and three assists as a bench player. Richmond hadn’t scored more than 13 points all season. In fact, his career-high at the collegiate level is only 16 points.
Somehow, Richmond was unstoppable in this one, going 10-13 from the floor on his way to a new career-high of 27 points. Richmond had his way with all of the UConn defenders, whether it was Whaley, Polley, Martin, or Jackson. Richmond had always been a talented player, but wasn’t playing up to his potential. Maybe this will be the turning point for Richmond in his career, but for now it’s an outlier performance that propelled Seton Hall to victory. The fact that UConn was able to hold a lead for much of this game after the out-of-nowhere performance by Richmond against a top 25 in-conference rival is impressive.
Late game miscues
UConn has had issues late in games with execution all year. Mishaps against Auburn, Michigan State, West Virginia, and Providence come to mind, and they clearly reared their ugly head again once again in this one.
It started with an Andre Jackson wide-open three-pointer that he airballed with a minute left and the game tied at 77. UConn got another chance to take the lead at the end of the regulation with the game still tied. RJ Cole held on to the ball for a while before dribbling the air out of the ball and heaving a desperate, contested fadeaway that didn’t even draw iron. Shot clock violation.
It looked like Hurley was trying to get some downhill action with Sanogo rolling hard to the basket of the screen, but Aiken recovered and shut off Cole completely. They simply have to be able to get a better look off in this situation.
UConn found itself in an almost identical position at the end of overtime. It was not ideal that RJ Cole had fouled out so Gaffney was the primary initiator, but again, the execution was severely lacking.
It seemed like Hurley wanted Martin coming off of a brush screen by Sanogo, which would then turn into Sanogo sealing his man from the basket trying to create an over-the-top passing lane for the bucket. This was a good play design in theory, as Sanogo had been eating all game long, but it wasn’t there. Seton Hall center Ike Obiago was playing this very well as Sanogo’s primary defender, and Richmond was cheating over on the baseline as the help, just baiting Martin to throw that over the top pass. The read was simply not there. Martin attempted to clear Sanogo out in desperation, but he did the opposite, trying to set a screen and inadvertently trapping Martin instead and he turned the ball over. UConn needs to be smarter with the basketball and find alternate options when the first read isn’t there. Too many times UConn has been struggling in these situations with the game on the line.