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No. 15 UConn out to correct slide vs. Seton Hall

Dec 31, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA;  Xavier Musketeers guard Adam Kunkel (left) reacts as he fouls Connecticut Huskies guard Jordan Hawkins (24) while he attempts a three-point basket in the second half at the Cintas Center. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

UConn has hit a slump, sliding nine spots to No. 15 in the newest AP Top 25 poll as a result.

Since an inspired 14-0 start to the season, the Huskies have lost four of five. Their next chance to right the ship will be Wednesday when they visit Seton Hall in Newark, N.J.

UConn (15-4, 4-4 Big East) has dropped road games to Xavier, Providence and Marquette, some of the toughest opponents in the conference. But Sunday’s 85-74 home loss to St. John’s was the nadir of the team’s season thus far.

The Red Storm bullied the Huskies down low, scoring 44 points in the paint. UConn committed 21 turnovers to just 10 by St. John’s.

“Disappointing. Didn’t see it coming,” UConn coach Dan Hurley told reporters. “Thought we would play a lot better. And just looked weak — looked weak and unprepared. Disappointing is just the beginning to describe it.”

Jordan Hawkins kept UConn in the game with a career-high 31 points. Adama Sanogo added 14 points and 10 rebounds. But after the halftime score was tied at 38, the Red Storm scored the first two baskets of the second half and never lost the lead again.

Hurley said St. John’s beat UConn to “every 50/50 ball” and out-toughed his group.

“Every time that it was a one-on-one situation, their player got the edge,” Hurley said. “The guy on the ball that’s defending the other team’s perimeter player, there’s a point where you have to have a will to not let them get the edge and get by. That’s been kind of a theme for the last two weeks with us.”

Now UConn, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation a mere three weeks ago, will go up against Seton Hall (11-8, 4-4), another team whose mission statement is to play with grit and tenacity.

The Pirates pulled out their third straight win on Saturday by beating DePaul 71-67 on the road. After a rough start to the Big East season, their consecutive wins over Butler, Georgetown and DePaul have separated them from the bottom tier of the league.

Saint Peter’s transfer KC Ndefo had his first double-double of the season, posting a team-high 16 points and a season-best 12 rebounds against DePaul.

Like UConn’s last game, Seton Hall was tied at halftime. The Pirates created separation by holding DePaul to a single field goal during a nearly 10-minute span during the second half.

“I talked to these guys (at halftime) and made sure we understand who we are,” coach Shaheen Holloway said in his postgame radio interview. “We have to stop trying to outscore people. Our offense became a lot better because our defense was much better.”

Both coaches in this game are former Seton Hall point guards, though they didn’t overlap. Hurley played at Seton Hall from 1991-96 and Holloway from 1996-2000, eventually becoming the program’s all-time assists leader.

Seven different players have led the Pirates in scoring in a game this season. Al-Amir Dawes averages a team-high 11.9 points per game. Kadary Richmond has come close to triple-doubles more than once and averages 9.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

For UConn, Sanogo is the Big East’s second-leading scorer at 17.3 points per game and adds 6.8 rebounds. He’s joined by 7-foot-2 freshman Donovan Clingan, who’s notched four double-doubles but was held scoreless against St. John’s after getting into foul trouble. Hawkins averages 15.4 points on nearly 40 percent shooting from deep.

–Field Level Media