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No. 23 UConn overwhelms LIU in second half for 93-40 win

Storrs — Given enough time to line up his shot and text a few friends, sophomore Andre Jackson didn't waste the good look.

Jackson calmly buried the open 3-pointer from the top of the key on UConn's second possession Wednesday night. He also sent a message that he's developing as a perimeter scoring threat.

"It definitely gave me more confidence that it went in," Jackson said. "But I'm just happy that I put it up. It definitely freed me up."

With No. 23 UConn off to a sluggish offensive start, Jackson carried his team by hitting his career high in the first half with 11 points. He provided much-needed energy and a disruptive defensive presence as the Huskies enjoyed their third straight runaway win, this time a 93-40 rout of Long Island University at Gampel Pavilion.

Jackson finished with 14 points, five rebounds, three blocks, two steals and an assist. He also went 5-for-7 from the field.

Coach Dan Hurley called Jackson by far the best athlete that he's ever coached. He was more impressed with the sophomore's defensive prowess than shot-making.

"Everyone focuses on that, obviously because that's the big question mark and something that he's had to deal with in his career," Hurley said of Jackson's shooting. "He was in all the right spots defensively. He was flying around, making impact winning plays.

"There are some things that we'll be able to do in games where he's not making shots and things that we'll unveil as the season progresses and the opponents change. But it was about his energy and integrity on defense and the way he was just all over the court. That's his superpower. ... That was an important night for him."

The Huskies (3-0) have dominated their competition through three games, winning by an average of 46.3 points. They've won multiple games by at least 50 points in a season for the first time since 2005-06.

UConn never trailed after taking the lead about 10 minutes into the game.

It's understandable that LIU (0-3) elected to leave Jackson alone on the perimeter.

While Jackson has the athletic ability to pull off highlight reel plays on both ends of the court as he did on Wednesday, outside shooting is a bit of a struggle for the guard. He was only 2 for 17 from three-point range in 16 games last season.

Jackson, who spent countless hours in the off-season working on his jump shot, equaled last year's total by sinking two 3-pointers in the first half.

It's a good thing Jackson was hot at the start because his teammates were icy cold. Jackson made three of his first four attempts for eight points while the rest of the team went one for nine for four points.

Trailing 12-9, Jackson's 3-pointer from the corner jump-started the offense and tied the score.

The Huskies took off from there.

They ended the half on a 29-10 spurt to seize a 38-22 advantage. They held LIU to 8 for 27 from the field but couldn't contain powerful 6-8 forward Isaac Kante who had 16 points by intermission. Kante had only one point in the second half.

Jackson provided more highlights in the second half, racing back to swat away a dunk attempt. He hustled back to block a breakaway attempt in the first half.

"He does freakish things all the time," Hurley said. "A lot of clips we can't put on social media from practice because the guy that he did it to would not recover."

Jackson is always striving to improve.

After not playing well in Saturday's win over Coppin State, Jackson texted assistant coach Luke Murray to talk about his game. The conversation put Jackson in a good frame of mind.

"He just told me that I've got to be better all-around," Jackson said. "I had rebounds but I definitely had to be a bigger presence on defense, have more ball pressure and be more disruptive. I just wasn't that against Coppin State. I took that advice and I tried to bring it into practice and into the game and it worked for me."

The Huskies played fairly consistently on defense. Their swat squad racked up 10 blocks. They limited Long Island to 27.5 percent from the field overall and forced 26 turnovers.

They received a spark from their deep bench, as Jalen Gaffney and Tyler Polley played the role of super subs. Gaffney scored in double figures for the third straight game, finishing with 11, and Polley had a team-best 17 points.

Freshman Jordan Hawkins and graduate forward Isaiah Whaley, who were both game-time decisions due to ankle injuries, saw action.

Hawkins made an instant impact in his debut after entering the game with 12:44 left. He stole the ball and set up Jackson for a breakaway dunk. He hit two free throws for his first points, increasing the lead to 66-30, and finished with five points, four rebounds and three steals in a productive eight minutes.

"He's going to be a very scary talent," Jackson said.

About the only thing still in doubt was the final margin of victory and the amount of dunks UConn would pile up.

Tyrese Martin chipped in 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds while sophomore Adama Sanogo, who averaged 20 points in the first two games, had 11 points. UConn converted 45.2 percent from the field and held a 48-30 edge in rebounds.

UConn has one more non-conference home game, hosting Binghamton Saturday in Hartford, before playing some quality competition next week in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.

News and notes

Hurley, who missed Tuesday's post-practice media availability due to an undisclosed medical issue, says he feels good. "We've had a bad couple of days. Ryan hit hard and I've had some minor health stuff." Ryan is former Rhode Island basketball player Ryan Preston, who recently passed away. During his URI coaching days, Hurley recruited Preston. Hurley offered his condolences to Ryan's family. "Such a tragic loss of life for a guy who was born into circumstances that most people would have never been able to overcome." ... Whaley had two points, five rebounds and two blocks in 13 minutes, playing at about 80 percent health-wise. Hurley: "That guy is so critically important to us winning and to the way this program has changed, I'm really proud of 'the Wrench.' " ... Walk-on Matt Garry of Southington received a huge ovation after sinking two free throws for first career points. "Thank God, because that was weighing on all of us," Hurley said. "The last two or three minutes has been more stressful than almost the first 37. He's such a great guy and has so much pride. He just needed to score. Unbelievable."

g.keefe@theday.com

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