College Hoops

UConn men wake up in the second half, beat Iona, 87-63

UConn men wake up in the second half, beat Iona, 87-63

ALBANY – For a half it appeared the UConn men’s basketball team may have psyched itself out of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.

The Huskies, after fielding question after question about the Hall of Famer in the opposing coach’s box and about the first-round failures of the last two seasons, couldn’t stop Rick Pitino’s Gaels in the first half. UConn came out in the second half on a mission led by its two leading scorers, Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins, and put away Pitino’s squad, 87-63 on Friday.

UConn (26-8) advances to the second round for the first time since 2016 and will meet No. 5 Saint Mary’s on Sunday. The Huskies are now 19-4 in NCAA first-round games all-time.

Sanogo finished with a season-high 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Hawkins scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Andre Jackson, who grew up in Albany and attended high school at Albany Academy, finished with 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Donovan Clingan, who kept the Huskies in the game in the first half, scored 12 points with nine rebounds in 13 minutes on the court.

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When Jackson was announced, last of the UConn starters, the spotlight followed him and the crowd in MVP Arena erupted with a hometown ovation similar to the one Bristol native Clingan received in Hartford.

Jackson didn’t smile when he was introduced. The junior forward home for business took little time before he made a 3-pointer on the game’s first possession, but Iona’s Berrick JeanLouis answered with a 3 of his own. JeanLouis made another after a dunk from Sanogo and, with a Daniss Jenkins mid-range shot, the Gaels had an 8-5 lead early on.

Less than three minutes later, UConn point guard Tristen Newton grabbed a loose ball and sprinted to the offensive end, the high-flying Jackson sprinted with him, collected the lead pass and cocked back both of his arms as he flew to the bucket to throw it down two-handed in transition to put the Huskies up, 14-11.

“It feels like a weight off the shoulders. It feels like we got past a marker that we kind of set. It definitely feels like we took a step forward and we’re ready to move on to the next one for sure,” Jackson said. “It felt good to see my family in the stands, but I tried to stay locked in the moment and locked into what was going on on the court. I didn’t realize I was in Albany until…

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