Season has gone by in a flash for Huskies
No.14 UConn has final home game vs.DePaul tonight at XL Center
Hartford — Back in June, UConn gathered on campus to start preparing for the grueling grind of the regular season.
Now the Huskies have arrived at the 2022-23 home finale, hosting DePaul at 7 p.m. today at the XL Center, where they practiced on Tuesday.
They’ve endured a wild ride at times.
“It does fly by,” said coach Dan Hurley after practice. “It’s surprising that it has gotten here so quickly. We practice in the summer to get ready for the season. Right now, we’re nine months into this commitment with the group for big goals and for a big mission.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride for us. November and December were a joy ride. January was really tough. February was a great month for us, and now we’re excited about March.”
No. 14 UConn (22-7, 11-7) has accomplished a great deal but fallen short of its goal of winning the Big East regular season title. With a win Wednesday, the Huskies will officially clinch one of five firstround byes in next week’s league tournament. They still can finish as high as third.
Winners of six of their last seven games, they’re in a great spot entering the final two regular season games. They visit Villanova on Saturday in Philadelphia.
“The group feels good,” Hurley said. “You want to obviously keep that, but you want to get the edge back that we had earlier in the year when we had that little bit of an underdog mentality. We’ve got to stick to our identity.
“We’ve got to guard one-on-one better and do that without fouling. … And we’ve got to stop turning the ball over. Those are the things that we’re harping on right now.”
Looking past DePaul (9-20, 3-15) would be a mistake.
While the Blue Demons have lost 10 straight and dropped the first meeting 90-76 on Jan. 31 in Chicago, they are a threat. They’re one of five league teams to beat Xavier and also own a win over Villanova.
“This league is really hard,” Hur
ley said. “That's why their record is what it is. But they have a lot of talented players.”
The college basketball season can take both a mental and physical toll on teams.
With the postseason right around the corner, Hurley has cut back on live action in practice to keep his team fresh.
The Huskies are fairly healthy outside of reserve guard Hassan Diarra who sat out Saturday's 95-76 win at St. John's with an abdominal strain.
His status will be determined prior to Wednesday's tip.
“We shorten things up,” Hurley said of practice . “You're looking at past years' practice plans. Just shaving down a lot of the live (action). … It's a long season. Obviously, there's a lot more on players' minds these days. Are you playing your last game potentially because you're thinking about the NBA? Are you thinking about the portal? Are you thinking about NIL (Name Image, Likeness) evaluation? Are you thinking about the Big East tournament, the NCAA tournament?
“There's a lot these guys have to deal with now.”
Junior Andre Jackson's mind is on the Huskies finishing strong and not looking ahead to the Big East tournament next week and beyond.
“That's the biggest thing right now, just focusing on this game that we've got against DePaul and making sure we get that win,” Jackson said. “After that, we're headed to Villanova to go get that one.
“Definitely just locked in on those two before we head out to go play in the Big East tournament, which is my favorite event I've ever played in in my life.”
In recent games, Jackson has added some offensive punch to his allaround game, scoring a career high 15 points versus Seton Hall on Feb. 18 and then equaling that total at St. John's.
While happy about contributing points, he knows that he can help his team in so many other ways.
“I think it's definitely fun to do that,” Jackson said. “I think it's always important to just know what I'm out there for and what my strengths are and stick to my strengths and not lose my identity in the process of that and just let that become another part of my game.”