ALBANY – Adama Sanogo came into the UConn locker room at halftime of the Huskies’ NCAA Tournament first-round game against Iona knowing he needed to step up for his season to continue.
The two-time Big East first-teamer had only six points and three rebounds in 11 first-half minutes and UConn trailed Rick Pitino’s Gaels, 39-37.
“It was not good, because we were down by two and we were not playing defense and we were not playing the way that UConn plays,” Sanogo said. “So we come in here, we talked as a team like, ‘This is not the way we play. We’re getting blown by, they’re getting wherever they want. We’re not playing UConn defense right now.’ So second half we had to make some adjustment, that was the adjustment: playing good defense.”
Immediately, Sanogo and fellow first-team member Jordan Hawkins, who couldn’t get a shot to fall in the first half, combined to score UConn’s first 17 points after the break.
“We grabbed (Sanogo) at halftime because he was pressing in the first half. He was hesitant. I think he carried the weight of getting us out of the first round, I think a little bit too much in the first half,” UConn head coach Dan Hurley said. “Adama, don’t hesitate. Just go up and finish. There’s no one that can deal with you down there.”
In just five minutes, a two-point UConn deficit turned into an 11-point UConn lead, and Sanogo was rolling.
“Things were not going our way, we were not making shots. And coming into the game, me and Jordan knew we needed to do something positive for us to win this game. So that’s why in the second half our mindset was like, ‘Alright, I need to do something good to win this game,’” Sanogo said.
As the second half went on and Sanogo approached a career-high 28 points and 13 rebounds, it felt like he’d never miss.
“It was electric, and when those two get going it’s very scary,” redshirt freshman Alex Karaban said. “The atmosphere was crazy, everything felt electric. Adama felt unguardable, Jordan, when he’s on, he’s on, so it just opens everything up for everyone else. When…
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