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Abdominal injury sidelines UConn's Sanogo indefinitely

With Tyrese Martin already on the sidelines, No. 17 UConn added to its injury woes with the news that frontcourt anchor Adama Sanogo will likely be out for a minimum of three weeks.

Coach Dan Hurley gave up an update on the two starters before Friday's practice.

Sanogo suffered an abdominal strain in Tuesday's difficult win over Maryland Eastern Shore, a game that Martin missed because of a left wrist injury. Martin was injured in a Nov. 24 win over Auburn, then played the next two games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas before sitting out.

"Tyrese looks like right now like a two to four week window with him," Hurley said. "Then Adama, we're still getting a sense of what that is exactly. We'll probably know more in the next couple of days.

"Right now, it's looking like a couple of weeks to possibly potentially longer than that, or longer than that, so we just don't really know the extent of that. He got the MRI done. It's a very unique injury to a basketball player. ... It's going to be a couple weeks, three weeks is probably the absolute minimum. But I don't think you'll probably see him for longer than that."

It's a huge loss for the Huskies, who host Grambling State (3-5) on Saturday at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs (4 p.m., FS2).

They run their offense through Sanogo, who's emerged as one of the best big men in the Big East. A sophomore forward, he's second on the team in scoring (15.6) and third in rebounding (6.3). He's also been a presence on the defensive end.

Sanogo will be on full rest during his recovery. Martin, who's wearing a cast, will be able to do some things to stay active while sidelined.

"We've got to reinvent ourselves because both Adama and Tyrese, you're talking about a ton of production there," Hurley said. "We're just going to have to play a different way. We're figuring that out right now."

The loss of Sanogo will mean more action for redshirt junior Akok Akok and freshman Samson Johnson.

Hurley has raved about the 6-foot-10 Johnson's athletic ability but the forward has played a total of just 23 minutes this season.

"I'm excited to see Samson," Hurley said. "And in some way I'm afraid because I know he's going to make a ton of mistakes."

Expected to play a significant role off the bench this season, Akok has been mostly ineffective, especially in the last six games during which he's scored a total of 13 points.

"We need him to step up right now," Hurley said. "The onus is on Akok. This is like a big moment in his career to turn it up and start making plays on the court."

Replacing Martin, even on a short term basis, will be difficult.

A senior guard and heartbeat of the Huskies, Martin is UConn's toughest player and leading rebounder at 7.7 per game. He's third on the team in scoring at 12.9 points.

Freshman Jordan Hawkins started in Martin's spot on Tuesday. He's shown flashes of his talent, averaging 7.2 points. Little-used freshman Rahsool Diggins also could see more playing time.

"It definitely stinks to see the guys go down but it's definitely exciting to get a bigger role and show what I really can do," Hawkins said. "I know I'm ready for it."

The Huskies basically need more production from everybody, including veterans Jalen Gaffney, Tyler Polley and Andre Jackson. R.J. Cole and Isaiah Whaley have been UConn's two most consistent players so far.

"It's next man up," Hurley said. "We've got to keep going. Obviously, every team goes through these things during the course of the season. It sucks that they're two of our best players, guys who are playing like All-Conference level guys.

"But, obviously, I've talked a lot about our depth and I've read a lot about our depth, so here we go. I know there's people that weren't happy about their role or wanted more minutes, well, here you go. Go produce."

Saturday's game takes on a greater importance now.

Hurley basically didn't recognize his team in a closer-than-expected nine-point win over Maryland Eastern Shore. He criticized his team for being soft and for its defensive issues.

"I'm agitated and unhappy," Hurley said. "We'll see if we have a problem with our passion for representing UConn. Every day in the (post-practice) circle, we talk about bleeding blue. Well, there weren't a lot of guys bleeding in terms of how hard we played the other night.

"It certainly didn't look like we were bleeding blue. ... There better be a response, or else you're going to find yourself out of the rotation."

Judging from the timetable for their return, Martin and Sanogo also will miss next week's two games — at West Virginia on Wednesday and against St. Bonaventure Saturday at the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

Martin likely has a better chance than Sanogo to return for UConn's Big East opener against Providence on Dec. 18 in Hartford.

"There's not a game that we're going to play with these guys out that there's any excuse for us losing," Hurley said. "We're at a point now where we've got to find a way. If we're going to win ugly, if we're going to win pretty, we've just got to get back to our identity."

g.keefe@theday.com 

NO. 17 UCONN vs. GRAMBLING STATE

Location: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs

Tip: 4 p.m. (FS2)

Records: UConn 7-1, Grambling 3-5

Last game: UConn beat Maryland Eastern Shore, 72-63, Tuesday; Grambling defeated Jarvis Christian, 71-44, Thursday

Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 grad. guard R.J. Cole (16.1 pts, 4.1 assists), 6-6 so. Andre Jackson (6.3 pts, 7.6 rebs), 6-5 fr. guard Jordan Hawkins (7.2 pts), 6-9 grad. forward Isaiah Whaley (6.3 pts, 5.3 rebs), 6-9 r-jr. Forward Akok Akok (4.1 pts, 4.3 rebs)

Grambling, 6-1 grad guard Danya Kingsbury (12.1 pts), 6-1 so. guard Tra'Michael Moton (8 pts, 3.9 rebs), 6-6 r-jr. guard Cameron Christon (11.3 pts, 4.9 rebs), 6-7 sr. guard Prince Moss (6.9 pts, 4.1 rebs), 6-8 jr. forward A.J. Taylor (10.8 pts, 6.6 rebs)

Noteworthy: Last home game before a two-game road trip. ... First meeting between two teams. ... With a win, UConn would be off to its best start since the 2013-14 season when it opened 9-0. ... Grambling is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. UConn is 3-1 vs. SWAC programs overall, beating Texas Southern twice, Florida A&M and losing to Jackson State in overtime in 1993 NIT. ... Tigers wins vs. Louisiana Christian, Morgan St. and Jarvis Christian, an NAIA school. ... Top reserve: 6-11 r-fr. forward Malik Lamin (4.9 pts, 4.0 rebs). ... Hot: Cole averaged 21.2 points in the last four games. Cold: Reserve Akok Akok scored two points on 1 for 6 shooting in the last four games. ... Injury update: Tyrese Martin (left wrist) out, Sanogo (abdominal strain) both out. ... Up next: UConn visits West Virginia Wednesday in Morgantown.

— Gavin Keefe

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