Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

Purdue back at No. 1 in AP Top 25, Alabama right behind

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue is back at No. 1 in the AP Top 25. Alabama is right behind the Boilermakers.

Purdue returned to the top spot in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, moving up two spots after Temple knocked off No. 1 Houston over the weekend. The Boilermakers received 39 first-place votes from a 62-person media panel after a volatile week where just two teams kept the same spot from a week ago.

Alabama climbed two spots to No. 2, picking up 23 first-place votes for its highest ranking since reaching No. 1 in 2002-03. Houston, Tennessee and Kansas State round out the top five.

Purdue (19-1, 8-1 Big Ten) had dropped to No. 3 after four weeks at No. 1 following a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3, but has since won six straight.

Alabama (17-2, 7-0 SEC) has made a steady climb since being ranked No. 20 in the preseason AP Top 25, moving into the top 10 in early December. The Crimson Tide had lopsided wins over Missouri and Vanderbilt after Darius Miles was dismissed from the team as he faces a murder charge in a fatal shooting near campus.

Alabama coach Nate Oats reached out to Ray Lewis before the Crimson Tide played Vanderbilt last week, sharing a Bible verse suggested by the Hall of Fame linebacker. Alabama ended up beating Vandy by 12 and rolled over Missouri by 21.

“I did see some guys break down postgame,” Oats said. “I think they’ve been bottling some stuff up. We’ve got a job to do. We’ve got to get to the game. We got to the game and took care of business, and then it’s almost like a big relief. The game’s over, and we can let out a sigh of relief.”

COUGARS FALL

Houston moved atop the AP Top 25 for the first time since the Phi Slama Jama of the 1980s earlier this season before a loss to Alabama dropped it back to No. 5.

The Cougars returned to No. 1 on Jan. 9, but their run ended after two weeks with Sunday’s 56-55 loss to Temple. The win was the Owls’ first over a No. 1 team since 2000.

BEATING KU

Kansas State moved up eight spots to No. 5 after outlasting rival Kansas 83-82 at Bramlage Coliseum last week. It’s the Wildcats’ highest ranking since reaching No. 3 in 2010-11.

TCU gave Kansas consecutive losses in the state for the first time since 1989 with a 23-point beatdown at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday. It was one of Bill Self’s worst losses in 20 years as Kansas’ coach and ended the Jayhawks’ 16-game home winning streak.

The No. 14 Horned Frogs moved up three spots in this week’s poll after the win. Kansas, the defending national champion, dropped seven spots to No. 9.

BIG TEN BUMMER

While Purdue has remained near the top of the poll most of the season, the rest of the Big Ten has fallen off. With Rutgers dropping out, the Big Ten has just one AP Top 25 team for the first time since the Feb. 16, 2004, when No. 12 Wisconsin was the conference’s lone ranked team, according to Sportradar.

RISING/FALLING

Kansas State had the week’s biggest jump, followed by No. 4 Tennessee and No. 6 Arizona each climbing five spots. No. 21 Baylor moved up four spots with wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma.

Gonzaga had the biggest fall, losing eight places to No. 14 after Loyola Marymount ended the Zags’ 75-game home winning streak on Thursday. No. 13 Xavier dropped five spots after a one-point road loss to DePaul.

IN AND OUT

No. 22 Saint Mary’s is ranked for the first time this season after rolling over Pepperdine and Santa Clara last week. No. 25 New Mexico is back in the poll after beating San Jose State and outlasting Boise State in overtime.

A three-point loss to Michigan State knocked Rutgers out of the poll from No. 23. Arkansas dropped out from No. 25 following a loss to Missouri.

Sasser’s 23 points leads No. 1 Houston past Tulane, 80-60

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW ORLEANS – Once Houston coach Kelvin Sampson asked Marcus Sasser to pass a little less and look for his shot, the No. 1 Cougars were well on their way to turning what looked like a difficult road test into a comfortable victory.

“They were backing off of Marcus and Marcus was passing it, and I was going, `Marcus, shoot,”‘ Sampson said.

Sasser highlighted a 23-point performance with seven 3-pointers, and Houston defeated Tulane 80-60 on Tuesday night for the Cougars’ ninth straight victory.

Sampson “was telling me to do what I do best for the team,” said Sasser, who averages a team-leading 16.6 points per game and was coming off a 31-point night in his previous game against South Florida. “I felt like, first half I was being passive. … I just put my mind on being aggressive and trying to put the ball in the hole. I really just got rolling.”

J’Wan Roberts scored 15 and Jamal Shead added 14 points for Houston (18-1, 6-0 American Athletic Conference), which led for all but a 50-second span in the first half while preventing Tulane (12-6, 5-2) from taking over the top spot in the conference.

Jaylen Forbes scored 23 and Jalen Cook added 15 points for the Wave, which could not get closer than five points in the second half. When Sasser’s 3 with 3:28 made it 73-54, Tulane fans started filing out of an arena, which had been packed and loud for much of the game’s first 30 minutes.

“I saw it,” Sasser said of the fans heading for the exits. “It’s always a good feeling to do that. I feel like that’s kind of the dagger. It’s always good to hit those dagger shots like that.”

Tramon Mark added 12 points for Houston, which shot 55.4% and hit 12 of 24 3-point attempts.

“They are definitely the No. 1 team in the country,” Tulane coach Ron Hunter said of the Cougars. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and they are a talented team.”

Kevin Cross scored 12 for Tulane, which shot 40% and made just 6 of 26 from deep – a steep drop off in offensive production from the 88 points the Green Wave had averaged during its first six conference games.

The Cougars opened the second half with an 8-0 run fueled by Sasser’s 3 and his driving layup to take a 48-32 lead. Houston was still up 53-38 after Sasser’s step-back 3, but the Wave was briefly able to lock in defensively, forcing five straight Cougars misses during an 11-1 run.

“We showed fight,” Forbes said. “We didn’t just lay down to them.”

Forbes’ fourth 3 of the game capped the spurt and pulled Tulane to 54-49 before Houston’s Mark hit a pull-up in transition to stunt the Wave’s momentum and spark a 7-0 Cougars run highlighted by another Sasser 3.

“On the road, going into the game, we know how the crowd’s going to try to involve themselves in the game,” Mark said. “I think we handled it pretty well.”

The Cougars shot 57% in the first half and led by 12 when Shead hit a driving layup in the final minute of the half.

But Tulane ended the half on a high note. Forbes hit a 3 as he was fouled on the left wing with 4 seconds to go and completed the four-point play to pull the Wave to 40-32 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Houston: The game represented arguably the Cougars’ toughest test in conference play this season. Not only did the Green Wave come in trying to take over first place in the AAC, but Tulane’s cozy, 4,000-seat Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse was sold out days in advance, packed and loud. But the Cougars looked composed and well rested after not having played for six days. They kept a double-digit lead for much of the night and had a response for every Tulane run.

“I know that when we’re on our stuff, we’re a pretty good team and we’re hard to beat,” Shead said. “J’Wan brought it today, Marcus was electric, Tramon was electric. I didn’t expect (a 20-point win), but I’m happy with it.”

Tulane: The Green Wave might have its best team in years but has now lost 10 straight against Houston. Tulane will get its next shot to break its losing streak against the Cougars on Feb. 22 in Houston.

UP NEXT

Houston: Hosts Temple on Sunday.

Tulane: At Tulsa on Saturday night.

UConn starting to finally get healthy after rough stretch

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — UConn is starting to finally get healthy.

The fourth-ranked Huskies welcomed back coach Geno Auriemma and star guard Azzi Fudd on in a 30-point rout of St. John’s. The Huskies had to postpone a game a few days earlier against DePaul when they didn’t have the seven healthy scholarship players required to play the contest.

It’s been that kind of a year for UConn that has only had two players play in all 16 games this season with the others missing at least a game with an injury, illness or travel problems.

They also have missed their Hall of Fame coach for four games due to an illness he’s been dealing with for a month. He was back on the bench against St. John’s after he had missed the Huskies’ previous two games because he wasn’t feeling well. He also missed two games while sick last month. The 68-year-old coach is also grieving the death of his 91-year-old mother in early December.

“Obviously, we really missed him,” senior forward Dorka Juhasz said of Auriemma. “They did a great job while he was gone, but obviously having the whole coaching staff is amazing. It’s good to see him smiling, laughing, and I think it was a good little rest for him, I hope he rested enough and he feels great. But I mean for us, we’re just happy to have him back.”

Associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been filling in while Auriemma has been away, said that she didn’t know for sure he was going to be back until he got on the bus for the trip to New York.

“He said he was coming on the trip, that’s when I knew,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure he was in a good place and he should come back and he was ready to come back. He assured me he was.”

Fudd missed eight games after injuring her right knee against Notre Dame on Dec. 4. She was cleared to resume basketball activities two weeks ago and had gone through warmups a few times before playing.

“I had to go into the game and just remind myself to stay aggressive,” said Fudd, who scored 14 points in 20 minutes in the 82-52 win. “I’ve been out for a while so I felt like I did a good job of kind of shaking the rust off, but I know that my reaction time and all that will get better as we keep playing.”

UConn was still missing Caroline Ducharme and Ayanna Patterson, who are in concussion protocol. Paige Bueckers (ACL tear) and freshman Ice Brady (dislocated patella) are out for the year.

“I think once we get (Caroline Ducharme) back and Ayanna in the mix it’s just going to add to what we’re working towards,” said Dailey. “So I just think everybody’s in a good place now.”

The Huskies have a busy stretch coming up with six games over 14 days and having a full roster would make that a little easier.

“We’ve tried holy water. We’ve tried sage burning. None of them seem to work,” Dailey said after a win over Xavier last week. “It’s just something we have to deal with. Whoever we have, we feel like we have enough.”

UConn’s Geno Auriemma to miss 4th game this season due to illness

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma will sit out the Huskies’ game at Xavier, the fourth game he has missed this season due to illness.

The Hall of Fame coach also sat out at Butler. The school didn’t release a timetable for his return.

Associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been at UConn with Auriemma since 1985, will take over the head coaching duties. She is 16-0 when filling in for him.

“It’s been an extremely difficult month for me, and I’ve been feeling under the weather and run down,” Auriemma said in a statement. “I thought I was ready to return, but I need a little more time. I’m going to take a step back to focus on my health and will return when I feel ready.”

His 91-year-old mother Marsiella Auriemma died on Dec. 8.

No. 5 UConn (12-2) has been beset with injuries and illness this season. Former national player of the year Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady are out for the season with knee injuries. Leading scorer Azzi Fudd is expected to return shortly from a knee injury that has kept her on the bench since early December. Shooting guard Caroline Duchareme is sitting out her second consecutive game in concussion protocol.

Only three Huskies have played in every game this season.

Hopkins scores 27 to help Providence beat No. 4 UConn 73-61

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Bryce Hopkins scored 27 points and Providence dominated the second half and knocked off fourth-ranked UConn 73-61 on Wednesday night for their eighth straight victory.

Noah Locke added 17 points to help the Friars (13-3, 5-0) earn their second win over a ranked team this season and remain unbeaten in the Big East. It was Providence’s first win over the Huskies at Amica Mutual Pavilion since Feb. 20, 2012, when the Friars won 72-70. They played on campus during the pandemic.

Jordan Hawkins led the Huskies (14-2, 3-2) with 15 points, and Donovan Clingan added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

The Huskies have lost two in a row after opening the season with 14 straight wins and winning their first three conference games. UConn was held under 70 points for only the second time this season. The Huskies entered averaging 82 points per game.

The Friars added to a three-point halftime lead thanks to going 8 of 18 from the 3-point line and outscoring the Huskies 29-10 at the free-throw line.

Ed Croswell finished a fast break with a two-handed slam to put the Friars in front 51-43 as part of a 13-8 run that put the Friars in front 56-46 with just over nine minutes to play.

UConn cut it to 60-55, and a few possessions later Hopkins was whistled for a charge – his fourth foul – with 4:54 left. But he stayed aggressive, getting fouled after a Huskies turnover and dropping in a pair of free throws to help Providence pushed the lead back up to 64-55 with 3:33 showing on the clock.

Providence won a mad scramble after three misses on its next possession, with Locke dropping in a deep 3 from the wing.

Providence led for just 2:26 in the first half but used a late surge to take a 33-30 edge into the break.

The Huskies leaned on their size advantage early, compacting the Friars in the half court and forcing them into some unbalanced shots.

UConn controlled the glass, outrebounding Providence 21-14 and holding a 22-8 edge in the paint in the opening 20 minutes.

The Friars were hot from the outside, though, going 5 of 9 from beyond the arc despite shooting just 5 of 15 from two-point range.

They also were able to generate offense without starter Jared Bynum, who went to the locker room with a midsection injury and sat out the final 11 minutes of the half. Alyn Breed took his place in the lineup to begin the second half, with Bynum remaining on the bench the rest of the way.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: This is not the start to conference play the Huskies were looking for after winning their first three. They lost 83-73 at No. 22 Xavier over the weekend.

Providence: The Friars continue to find a way to stay in ball games, this time negating a big height disadvantage by hitting outside shots and getting to the line. That will help them stay in almost every game as they try to defend their regular-season Big East title.

UP NEXT

UConn returns home to host Creighton on Saturday.

Providence hosts St. John’s on Saturday.