The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
UConn wins at DePaul as Hawkins, Sanogo, Newton score more than 20 each
CHICAGO — A 20point lead had evaporated into a two-possession game. The UConn men’s basketball team appeared in danger of squandering another lead.
Enter Tristen Newton. The senior transfer point guard, often a lightning rod for fan criticism during UConn’s recent tough stretch, stepped up and hit a 3-pointer while being fouled with 9:55 left. He hit the free throw to complete the four-point play, and UConn was able to gradually pull away for a 90-76 win over DePaul at half-empty Wintrust Arena on Tuesday night.
“They were going off screens all night,” Newton reported. “I work on stopping behind screens and shooting the 3 every day. I knew we needed the points. I was confident enough to shoot it, and to have it go in with him fouling me, it was a good momentum boost.”
Newton, who finished with 21 points, had hit a jumper a couple of possessions earlier to give 24thranked UConn (16-6, 6-6 Big East) an 11-point lead. But DePaul’s Javan Johnson countered with a 3pointer, and after Andre Jackson Jr. was called for a charge, K.T. Raimey hit a tough runner to get the Blue Demons within six at 63-57.
But Newton converted his four-point play, and though DePaul (9-14, 3-9) would get back to within seven, the Huskies closed it out behind Jordan Hawkins, Adama Sanogo and strong foul shooting down the stretch.
“Thrilled to get a road win in the Big East,” coach Dan Hurley said. “Wherever you go in the league, it’s challenging.”
Hawkins finished with a game-high 26 points and a handful of “splash” plays, including an incredible, rundown block of a Umoja Gibson layup attempt early in the latter half.
“I knew he wasn’t going to dunk the ball,” Hawkins said. “I knew I had the chance to get it, and I timed it right. The team needed it. I didn’t want him to get the easy bucket.”
Hawkins added a powerful dunk late in the game that pretty much sealed the deal.
Meanwhile, Sanogo dominated inside, going 10 for 13 from the floor for 25 points before fouling out. The Huskies made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to Sanogo all night, and that was helped by three first-half fouls on 6foot-10 DePaul forward Yor Anei.
“We’re at our best when we’re not necessarily throwing the ball in from the wing, where it’s easier to double him,” Hurley said. “Adama has trouble at times passing out of double teams. I think we made a concerted effort to put him in position where he was catching, turning and scoring, as opposed to catching off the block, where things get more problematic.”
Added Newton: “We knew we could get (Sanogo) the ball anytime and he’d go and get a bucket for us. He does that on a daily basis. He kills whoever’s guarding him. We know he’s going to do that in a game, so we’ve just got to get him touches.”
The Huskies hit 30 of 34 free throws. Hawkins went 12 for 14 from the line, and his missed freebie late in the game snapped a streak of 18 straight made free throws for the sophomore guard. DePaul was just 17 for 28 from the foul line.
UConn’s defense was slow early on, as DePaul jumped out to an early lead behind Johnson, who scored the Blue Demons’ first eight points. But the Huskies toughened up on that end of the floor while playing as crisp and efficient an offensive half as they have in a while.
Behind 15 points from Hawkins and 12 from Sanogo, UConn owned a 4633 lead at halftime. The Huskies outscored DePaul 26-12 in the paint and outrebounded the Demons, 22-13.
“I was encouraged by our first-half defense,” Hurley said, “and discouraged by the last 15 minutes of the second-half defense. The season alternates between relief and suffering, pretty much, for me. You feel relieved to get the win.”
After scoring 10 points in the first six minutes, Johnson scored just nine points the rest of the game. DePaul leading scorer Umoja Gibson finished with just eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Four different players — Sanogo, Jackson Jr., Anei and Gibson — fouled out of the game.
The Huskies had dropped six of their prior eight games. They now head to Georgetown for a second straight road game against the last-place Hoyas.
“We’ve got a chance to create some momentum,” Hurley said. “I think we have some guys with some offensive confidence right now. We’ve got to get tougher and we’ve got to defend for full games.”
“I feel like, before this game, we had the best practice we’ve had in a minute,” Newton added. “We keep doing that, I feel we’ll be very successful down the road.”