No. 8 UConn MBB meets Oklahoma State in BIG EAST-Big 12 Battle

UConn Athletic Communications / November 30, 2022

UConn Game Notes

Oklahoma State game notes

STORRS, Conn. — It really hasn’t been that long since the UConn men’s basketball team played at the Gampel Pavilion, but the Huskies are a very different team than the one that left the Gampel ground on Nov. 18.

UConn return to their home on campus Thursday night as an 8-0 team with finishes 8th and 6th in the national polls and display a trophy as champions of the Phil Knight Invitational, being held over Thanksgiving weekend in Portland, Oregon.

On Thursday, the new and improved Huskies take on another challenge, playing host to the State of Oklahoma in the BIG EAST-Big 12 Battle in Gampel (6:30pm FS1).

It’s the second season of the Battle for UConn, which was defeated when it first appeared in West Virginia last year.

The Huskies, who made the program’s best start in nine years, made a huge leap in the polls and could make the college world buzz, but UConn Coach Dan Hurley isn’t ready to let the huskies get caught up in the hype.

“Nobody (on the team) drinks the poison,” Hurley said. “Nobody thought we were good – that’s our mentality. We have a chip on our shoulder that we will have all year long. This thing could also get away from you quickly if you deviate from your formula, which is, do everything right, play elite defense, dominate the backboard, play for each other, play harder than your opponent. That’s the script and we’re sticking to that.”

However, the trainer will admit that the Huskies came together as a team and achieved success faster than even the coaching staff thought possible.

“Basically none of these guys had played together,” Hurley said. “And letting newcomers produce in high-level roles. It’s just that they did it so quickly. I mean, you knew the potential was there, but I worried that maybe we were going to have bigger problems in some of those non-conference games and then go into the Big East demoralized.

“But these guys just rose and played at a very high level. They went about their business and gained confidence.”

The depth of the huskies set them apart from their opponents. Nine of the Huskies are averaging at least 15 minutes of play per game, and that doesn’t include Samson Johnson, who played 16 in the first game and has since been out with a foot injury.

UConn is still led by junior Adama Sanogo, who is the leader in scores (18.5) and rebounds (7.0), but three other huskies are averaging in double digits – senior Tristen Newton (12.6), Jordan Hawkins in second year (11.2) and redshirt freshman Alex Karaban (10.4). Newcomer Donovan Clingan, who was named PKI Tournament MVP, also averages 9.5 points and 6.9 rebounds.

But the Huskies have also received key contributions from Andre Jackson Jr., Joey Calcaterra, Nahiem Alleyne and Hassan Diarra, making the UConn bench a key weapon.

Oklahoma State (5-2), on the other hand, is a team with its own chip on its shoulder. The Cowboys are a team on a mission after being disqualified from NCAA tournament play last year.

“Oklahoma State is a quality team, an NCAA tournament team, a top 30 team,” Hurley said. “They’ve got top 25 defense, they’ve got problems on the backboard, and they’re deep and physical. It’s going to be our toughest game of the year, we know that. We have to be ready.”

The Cowboys have three double-digit scorers, guard Avery Anderson (12.7), guard Bryce Thompson (11.0), and 7-1 center Moussa Cisse (10.0, 10.6 rebounds). The OSU averages 75.1 ppg and allows for 62.3. The Cowboys shoot .463 overall and only .293 from three-point range.

OSU, eliminated from the Big 12 Conference like UConn’s last opponent, Iowa State, will play its second away game.

Thursday’s game will be the Huskies’ ninth game in a packed span of just 24 days. After Thursday, UConn will be idle until it plays its first real road game on December 7th in Florida.

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