Adama Sanogo scored 24 points and Jordan Hawkins came from the three-point line in the second half as UConn pulled away from St. Mary’s for a 70-55 win Sunday to put the Huskies into the Sweet 16 for the first time in nine years.
No. 4 seed UConn (27-8) advanced to the West Regional in Las Vegas on Thursday. Next up is eighth seed Arkansas State, which eliminated top seed Kansas.
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Sanogo followed up his 28-point game in the Huskies’ NCAA tournament opener against Iona with another powerful and effective performance in the paint. The 245-pound junior was 11-for-16 from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds, dominating a big game with Mitchell Sachsen (six points, three rebounds, four fouls).
St. Mary’s (27-8) of the West Coast Conference failed to make it out of the tournament’s first weekend for the second consecutive season as the No. 5 seed.
Aidan Mahaney and Logan Johnson scored nine goals each for the Giles, who played the last 25 minutes without top scorer Alex Ducasse. Senior left with an apparent back injury.
UConn used a 14-2 surge, highlighted by Hawkins’ 3 with 11:28 left in the second half, to go up 51-40.
Hawkins was scoreless up to that point, but added 3 more that popped off the screen moments later to make it 56-45, and “Let’s Go Huskies!” Cheers started to reverberate throughout the MVP Arena.
FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON COACH GIVES A PEEP TALK, ALIGIS FLORIDA ATLANTIC TRUSH ASSISTANT SPEAKS BEFORE THE BIG GAME
Hawkins didn’t finish, making it 3 straight seconds to make it 62-47 with 6:38 left. He finished with 12 points.
Meanwhile, the Huskies defense was putting pressure on the Gaels, who were held to fewer than 60 points for only the fourth time this season.
The Gaels and Huskies practically played the first half, with 44.4% shooting from the field, and a solid shutout. Mahaney made a 3 with 21 seconds left to put St. Mary’s ahead 30-28, and Newton responded with a three-pointer 18 seconds later that put the Huskies ahead 31-30 in the middle and got the pro-UConn crowd on its feet.
The Big Picture
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels have reached the Sweet 16 only once in program history in 2010.
Coach Randy Bennett, in his 22nd season at SMC, and the Gaels were Gonzaga’s closest competitor in the WCC. They’ve clinched a #5 ranking in each of the last two seasons, the best ranking of any team outside of the six powerhouse conferences that haven’t been called a Gonzaga since 2014.
UConn: The Huskies last played in the second weekend of a tournament in 2014, when they won their last four national titles in a 15-year span — and most surprisingly.
The Huskies’ most recent title came from the American Athletic Conference, the league born out of the breakup of football and basketball in the Big East in 2013.
UConn went with the schools football and played seven years in the AAC, as its football program faltered while its vaunted men’s basketball slipped into irrelevance.
The Huskies returned to their Big East roots, hiring former Seton Hall point guard Dan Hurley as coach five years ago and rejoining the conference three seasons ago, and have been evolving ever since.
Ducasse was taken off the field with 4:52 left in the first half.
The more accurate three-point shooter and third-goaler knelt down and began reaching for his lower back after no apparent contact. The team’s athletic trainers attended to him and then helped him off the field after he attempted to make a move on his own. He went straight to the locker room and didn’t play the rest of the game.
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Ducasse scored 17 points in Giles’ first-round win over VCU and had eight more points when he was knocked out.
OConn: The Huskies are 3-1 all-time against Arkansas.
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