UConn men rout Georgetown in regular-season finale
Storrs — A late-season hot streak has elevated UConn's status in the college basketball world.
The Huskies have gone from being rarely talked about to a potential sleeper team in the upcoming NCAA tournament, which they're all but guaranteed to qualify for after winning six of their last seven games, including Saturday's 98-82 demolition of Big East rival Georgetown in the regular season finale at Gampel Pavilion.
After the impressive win, coach Dan Hurley offered some advice: Don't drink the Kool-Aid. Nothing has changed as far as Hurley is concerned.
The Huskies (14-6, 11-6) will remain hungry when they open the Big East tournament with a quarterfinal game on Thursday at Madison Square Garden in New York. They don't expect to run away from an opponent like they did against the Hoyas (9-12, 7-9), scoring the game's first 12 points and never looking back.
"Next week is going to be completely different," Hurley said. "You don't start 10-0 in the quarterfinals because we came in playing well. We've got to have good preparation and not drink the Kool-Aid. Because now we've gone from is this team is a bubble team to now all of a sudden a Final Four sleeper.
"We have a chip on our shoulder. People haven't praised a lot of our season. We've had a lot of detractors. And I love that. We're going to have a chip on our shoulder and a real edge to us over the next couple weeks. That's our mentality."
UConn dominated in every phase Saturday. The Huskies had season highs for points in a Big East game, 3-pointers (12) and field goal percentage (a sizzling 59.3), as well as tying a season-high for assists (22). They won the battle of the boards against the Big East's top rebounding team, 35-26.
"We were just looking for each other out there and sharing the ball," sophomore Jalen Gaffney said. "We were just playing with confidence. Everybody can score on this team. We have a bunch of scorers. It's just a matter of who is playing well that day, who's hitting shots and who's hot.
"We have a great offense. ... Today, it just came easy for us."
Sophomore James Bouknight led a balanced attack with 21 points, Gaffney fired in 15, while junior Tyrese Martin, seniors Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polley each added 11. Freshman Adama Sanogo had his first career double-double, finishing with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.
It was a great Senior Day sendoff for Whaley, Polley and Josh Carlton (seven points, seven rebounds) as well as junior Brendan Adams, who's graduating this May. They were honored with a pre-game ceremony during which they received framed jerseys and video tributes from family members.
Polley started to choke up when talking about Senior Day.
"I tried to lock into the game and not get too emotional," Polley said. "It was really special. ... I'm so grateful and so blessed to play at UConn and be a part of the rebuild. I'm choking up. I'm extremely blessed and just happy that I could help this program get back to where it belongs."
Hurley added: "This game was an important game on a number of levels. But we wanted to honor our seniors by finishing the right way."
In the days leading up to the game, Hurley stressed to his team about finishing the season strong
Apparently, they were listening. This one was basically over by halftime.
The Huskies scored the game's first 12 points and made their first six shots.
Bouknight started hot and stayed that way, scoring on a drive and dunk and burying two straight 3-pointers for a 15-2 edge less than four minutes in. He ended up tying a career-high with five 3-pointers.
The Huskies got just about anything that they wanted on the offense. Their lead grew to 29 before settling for a 51-24 advantage at halftime. They made 16 of 33 field goals, while holding the Hoyas to 6 for 20 from the field.
The second half resembled playground basketball as both teams traded baskets.
The Huskies can't wait to play in the Big East tournament.
"We know it's The Year," Bouknight said. "We're just so confident. In practice, we talk about it. We know we have a special team and we know we can make something happen and make some noise."