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    Thursday, March 30, 2023

    UConn notes: Sanogo takes over in the second half for Huskies

    UConn's Adama Sanogo, center, hugs Andre Jackson Jr. (44) in the second half of Friday’s first-round game against Iona in the NCAA tournament in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

    Albany, N.Y. – UConn coach Dan Hurley had a conversation with junior Adama Sanogo heading into halftime on Friday.

    What did Hurley say?

    “You’ve been here before, this is not something new to you,” Sanogo said of Hurley’s message. “Just calm down and play hard.”

    Sanogo, who experienced the sour taste of an NCAA tournament first round defeat in his first two seasons, washed all the disappointment away by powering No. 4 UConn past No. 13 Iona, 87-63, in first round action at MVP Arena.

    After scoring only six points in the first half, Sanogo muscled inside for 22 points after intermission to finish with a season-high 28 and added 13 rebounds.

    “My mindset for this game was to play hard,” Sanogo said. “I know, if I play hard, anything is possible for me, because I know we have a good team and anybody can play good. It was my night.”

    Only one of three players on the UConn roster with previous March Madness experience, Sanogo was nearly unstoppable at times. He converted on a variety of crafty moves under the basket.

    Iona didn’t have an answer for the 6-foot-9 forward.

    Sanogo went 13 for 17 from the field overall.

    “The way I played tonight, it was definitely one of my best (games), for sure,” Sanogo said.

    Good thing Hurley had a conversation with Sanogo at halftime.

    “We grabbed him at halftime because he was pressing in the first half,” Hurley said. “He was pressing. … I just think we got him to relax and perform, and the guard put him in great spots.”

    Next round

    UConn will play No. 5 Saint Mary’s in second round action on Sunday.

    The two teams have met only one other time, with the Huskies winning 89-73 on Dec. 17, 2006 in Hartford.

    The Gaels – yes, Saint Mary’s has the same nickname as Iona – 27-7 overall and went 14-2 in the West Coast Conference. They defeated No. 12 Virginia Commonwealth University, 63-51, in first round action Friday.

    “The crowd will swell by Sunday and a lot more Husky fans will enter the building,” Hurley said. “Maybe it’s not as big of an advantage because they’re an older team and they’re physical. We know surviving Sunday is going to be an absolute war and a dogfight.”

    Hurley family affair

    The NCAA tournament is a family affair for Hurley.

    His older brother, Bobby, already has won a March Madness game, coaching 11th-seeded Arizona State past Nevada, 98-73, Wednesday in the First Four in Dayton.

    Both Hurleys were on the sideline on Friday, with Dan’s UConn team playing Iona and Bobby’s Arizona State facing TCU at night in Denver

    Parents, Bob Sr. and Christine, attended UConn’s game.

    “My Dad takes a lot of pride in his two sons being on this big stage,” Dan said. “I know it means a lot to him.”

    News and notes

    Former UConn coach Jim Calhoun attended the game along with sons Jeff and Jim and two grandchildren. … Actor Bill Murray, whose son is UConn assistant Luke Murray, also was in the crowd. … The other four Big East teams in the NCAA tourney field – Xavier, Marquette, Providence and Creighton – also competed on Friday. … Counting his previous stops, Pitino coached against UConn 25 times prior to Friday’s game, going 15-10.


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