X-Men Pick Up Big Road Win at UConn
Andy Mac Williams,
Xavier checked a major box Wednesday night posting a gritty hang with 'em 82-79 BIG EAST Road win vs UConn at Storrs snapping Huskies' 17 game win streak on campus at Gampel Pavilion. XU advances to 17-4, 9-1 BE(1st Place), 5-1 on the road. Muskies grab a valuable Quad 1 NET win over UConn which started the evening rated #6 NET. A road win over a Top 10 NET team is about as good as it gets in the basketball analytics world. X(#13 AP Top 25-#12 Coaches' Poll) might jump back into the Top 10 w/ a win against Creighton Saturday in Omaha(12:15 PM EST on CBS). Muskies dominated 1st half leading 39-24 at the break. XU won all 5 1st half 4 minute wars and led by as many as 17.
UConn looked tentative-settling for early 3 pointers(1-13 from "3") while XU patiently worked the ball-hit 50% FG w/ 5 made 3 pointers. XU did a strong defensive job on Huskies' top 2 scorers(Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins combined for just 3 FGs).
Colby Jones locked up Hawkins. X managed a rebounding edge over burly UConn-forced 8 turnovers and copped 5 steals. UConn regrouped at the half-slapped on a full court press-fell back into a morphing half court zone and got the rock to smooth shooting Soph Hawkins(28 points). UConn reeled XU in after just 8 minutes of 2nd half(well-almost)-trailing 56-54. Ball game definitely "ON"!
Huskies chopped Muskies' lead to one point 5 times down the stretch but never could climb the mountain and grab the lead. X found a way to crack the press and solve the various zone looks and ice a HUGE "W"( their 2nd this season vs UConn-won 83-73 at Cintas New Years Eve).
PG Souley Boum was pivotal(21 points-16 in 2nd half). Boum banged 5 of 5 "3s" keeping UConn at bay and finished them off making 2 FTs w/ 1.8 seconds left. Colby Jones scored 20-making dagger "3s" and scoring around the rim when UConn inched close.
Jack Nunge tipped one in at the rim w/ 1:21 to play putting X up 80-77. The final minute was mayhem punctuated w/ turnovers-mad scrambles on the floor and strong XU execution to protect the lead. Muskies stalked the 3 point arc as UConn inbounded w/ 9 seconds left-down 3-fouling Tristan Newton w/ 2.1 left and denying the ball to the hot hand Hawkins.
Newton made both FTS-failing to miss 2nd FT try. Boum was fouled and converted both FTs-BALL GAME OVER!! Zach Freemantle fouled out w/ 4:44 to play so Miller went w/ one BIG and 4 Quick. In fact he played Colby and Jerome Hunter(25 minutes) and Des Claude(20 minutes) as his core line-up.
Hunter was excellent(11 points on 5-6 FG-3 rebounds-2 assists). Claude played his best XU game( 6 points-4 rebounds-3 assists-no turnovers vs UConn's withering press). It was a strong homecoming for Des(from New Haven, Conn and attended Putnam Science Academy in Conn.). Friends and family had to be pleased.
My Pre-game pick Xavier 81 UConn 77 was close. Muskies were a 6 point underdog. KenPom had XU losing by 8. Xavier knows how to hold on to leads and close games. UConn punched away in a building where they almost always win.
XU won 3 BE road games last season(3-6) DNP at Georgetown w/ a COVID cancellation. So far thru 10 of 20 BE games in 2022-23 Muskies are 4-1 away w/ notable wins at Villanova, St Johns and now UConn. I'll be checking NET numbers Thursday morning. X should make major progress!!