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UConn's goal is to beat Georgetown ... and keep Bouknight fresh

It's not a shocker that UConn is a stronger team with star guard James Bouknight on the court.

The trick is figuring out how long to play Bouknight without tiring him out for a game's home stretch.

On Tuesday at Georgetown, Bouknight will be playing his third game since spending six weeks on the sideline due to an elbow injury. The Big East game (9 p.m., FS1) will be played at McDonough Arena in Washington, D.C.

Bouknight's lack of game conditioning was evident in Saturday's eight-point loss at No. 8 Villanova.

"You can run on the treadmill and do conditioning with the strength coach all you want, but the stress of game play and specifically the stress of that particular game play with how challenging a game versus a team like Villanova is physically and mentally, it drained him pretty good," coach Dan Hurley said Monday night.

"He'll get better with every practice and every game. He didn't have much of a runway into a game of that magnitude. So he'll get in better shape and he'll also settle in better as a player."

Bouknight raced out to a torrid start in each of the last two games before fading after intermission. He averaged 13 points and converted 10 of 17 field goals in the first half against Providence and Villanova but managed just 6.5 points on 4 for 13 from the field in the second half.

Hurley would like to play Bouknight closer to 30 to 32 minutes instead of the 36 against Villanova.

"We just need him right now," Hurley said. "Maybe we can try to play him in shorter spurts, but he's got to be a two-way player for us. Great players, they're on the glass, they defend people and they're efficient offensively.

"We need James to come back and be a great player for us, not to try to put up virtuoso offensive performances."

UConn (10-6, 7-6) has only four regular-season games left to improve its resume before the Big East tournament in New York.

Two of those games are against the Hoyas (7-10, 5-7), who are playing perhaps their best basketball in recent weeks. Georgetown has won four of its last six, including beating Seton Hall, 81-75, on Saturday.

The Hoyas have a dangerous perimeter weapon in senior Jahvon Blair and a powerful inside duo in senior Jamorko Pickett and sophomore Qudus Wahab, the second and third leading rebounders in the Big East.

"They've really settled in terms of their rotation," Hurley said. "They came back from that COVID pause and played really, really well. ... They found themselves. And they're playing with a lot of confidence right now. It's a much different team than the one that lost to Navy (Dec. 1) and the one that struggled early in conference play. It's a really good team, good size and they all understand their roles."

Odds of UConn winning will increase if it can get more production from Bouknight's supporting cast. Only junior Tyrese Martin and redshirt junior R.J. Cole can be counted on offensively. Outside of that trio, no other Husky averages in double figures.

When asked if he's still searching for a consistent scorer off the bench, Hurley responded: "It's hard to ask for absolute consistency. You obviously don't want it to be feast or famine with bench guys where you're going to get high production or no production.

"I think we'll be settled in hopefully better (Tuesday). Obviously, we're desperate to get James back in. These guys around him have got to play their game. We have one of the best guards in the country that's returned. We just can't stand around and watch him.

"... Obviously, we've got to do things to get the ball in his hands because he's so dynamic. But we're a really good basketball team and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we are deep. A lot of different guys can hurt you."

g.keefe@theday.com

UCONN at GEORGETOWN

Location: McDonough Arena, Washington, D.C.

Tip: 9 p.m. (FS1)

Records: UConn 10-6, 7-6; Georgetown 7-10, 5-7

Last game: UConn lost at No. 10 Villanova, 68-60, Saturday; Georgetown beat Seton Hall, 81-75, Saturday.

Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 r-jr. guard R.J. Cole (12.2 pts, 4.3 assists), 6-5 so. guard James Bouknight (20 pts, 5.1 rebs), 6-6 jr. guard Tyrese Martin (12.5 pts, 7.4 rebs), 6-, 6-9 sr. forward Isaiah Whaley (8.0 pts, 6.4 rebs, 2.9 blks), 6-9 fr. forward Adama Sanogo (6.1 pts, 4.2 rebs)

Georgetown, 6-0 fr. guard Dante Harris (7.1 pts), 6-4 sr. guard Jahvon Blair (16.2 pts, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebs), 6-7 grad forward Chudier Bile (9.6 pts, 4.6 rebs), 6-9 sr. forward Jamorko Pickett (12.7 pts, 8.4 rebs), 6-11 so. forward Qudus Wahab (11.7 pts, 8.1 rebs, 2.0 blks)

Noteworthy: UConn is 3-3 in its last six games, Georgetown 4-2. ... Series: UConn trails, 32-26, losing last meeting 72-69 on the road in 2017. Huskies are 8-22 overall all-time playing at Georgetown. ... Hoyas 6-5 at home, Huskies 4-3 on the road. ... Two teams met again on March 5 in Storrs. ... Former Hoya great Patrick Ewing in his 4th season coaching his alma mater. ... Top reserve: 6-5 grad guard Donald Carey (8.9 pts, 3.1 rebs). ... Georgetown first in rebounding margin (6.2) in the Big East, UConn second at 4.2. ...Both teams shooting 42.9 percent while UConn is allowing 41.7 percent and Georgetown 42.1 percent. ... Hoyas ranks second in Big East in 3-pt FG percentage at 36.8. ... Hot: UConn averaging seven blocks in last four games. Cold: Whaley averaging just 4.8 pts in last five games. ... Huskies in fifth place in league, Hoyas eighth. ... Junior Brendan Adams, who started while Bouknight was out, has not played the last three games. ... Up next: UConn hosts Marquette at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Gampel Pavilion.

— Gavin Keefe

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