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No. 19 UConn, No. 13 Xavier meet seeking more consistency

Jan 22, 2023; Hartford, Connecticut, USA; UConn Huskies guard Jordan Hawkins (24) returns the ball against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half at XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Xavier was relieved to get a win in a game it hardly felt good about its performance in.

A day later, UConn felt some massive relief following a blowout victory that hopefully put an end to its recent slump.

Both teams dropped in the AP Top 25 poll this week, and the No. 13 Musketeers are hoping to deliver a better showing while the No. 19 Huskies hope to revert back to their early-season form on Wednesday night when the Big East foes clash in Storrs, Conn.

Xavier (16-4, 8-1 Big East) won its first seven conference games for its best start in league play in program history. The strong start elevated Xavier to No. 8 in the country, but then came a 73-72 loss at DePaul on Wednesday in which it shot 38 percent from the field and missed 16 of 20 3-point tries.

The Musketeers bounced back from the DePaul loss by shooting 54.9 percent in a 95-82 home win over reeling Georgetown.

Zach Freemantle led the way against the Blue Demons with 30 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the season. Despite reaching 90 points for the sixth time, Xavier gave up at least 80 points for the third time in its last five games.

Colby Jones added 20 points for the Musketeers after going 3 of 14 at DePaul to help offset quiet showings from Souley Boum and Jack Nunge, who were held to 10 and seven points, respectively.

“It was a step in the right direction,” Freemantle said. “Obviously, a win is better than a loss. I don’t think anyone on our team would say they’re satisfied with the way we played today. But coming off a loss, it feels good to win.”

UConn (16-5, 5-5) matched the third-best start in team history by opening the season 14-0 but then faltered with five losses in six games. Included in that stretch were losses at Xavier and Marquette along with an 11-point loss to St. John’s and a one-point loss at Seton Hall last Wednesday.

After blowing a 17-point lead against the Pirates, the Huskies responded to their dramatic loss by coasting to an 86-56 win over visiting Butler in Hartford, Conn. The Huskies shot 48.4 percent for their second-best showing in a conference game and did so after shooting under 40 percent in three of their previous five games.

UConn led by 22 at halftime, held the Bulldogs to 32.7 percent from the field and outscored Butler 42-18 in the paint.

“We know we don’t suck,” said UConn coach Danny Hurley, who returned after missing the Seton Hall game with COVID-19. “We know we’re really good. And we know that these next 10 games, we’ve got a bunch of people coming to Gampel (Pavilion) and that we’ve got a chance at getting back to some wins.”

Jordan Hawkins scored 20 points and is averaging 21.3 over his past three games, while Adama Sanogo added 17 to along with 14 rebounds.

The teams have split their four meetings as Big East foes. Xavier handed UConn its first loss on Dec. 31 when it shot 53.8 percent in an 83-73 home win.

–Field Level Media

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