Adama Sanogo shines as No. 3 UConn stays unbeaten

Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Adama Sanogo had 27 points and 14 rebounds, helping No. 3 Connecticut beat Butler 68-46 on Saturday night.

Jordan Hawkins added 12 points as the Huskies (12-0, 1-0 Big East) extended the program’s fourth-longest winning streak to start a season. UConn’s No. 3 ranking is the team’s highest since 2009, and it likely will move up in the next poll after No. 2 Virginia lost to No. 5 Houston on Saturday.

“Obviously Adama played like an All-American, one of the best players in the country, which he is,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said.

The Huskies pulled away late in the first half. The Bulldogs (8-4, 0-1) were unable to match the physicality of Sanogo, a 6-foot-9 junior center from Mali. The Huskies dominated on the boards, 54-30.

“We just have to stick to our identity,” Sanogo said. “Coming into here, we know it’s going to be a tough game. No pressure, just play the way I’ve been playing.”

Manny Bates scored 16 points for Butler on 7-for-11 shooting. Chuck Harris had 12.

The Bulldogs opened with an 8-2 run, but Sanogo quickly started to assert himself inside. By the time Connecticut was ahead 25-17, Sanogo had 12 points.

“Adama is going to have to do this for us at times,” Hurley said. “That’s the responsibility of one of the best players in the country. When we have a number of people struggling offensively, we’re going to need him to take over.”

Connecticut’s Nahiem Alleyne sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 28-20 halftime lead.

When Butler closed to 43-39 midway through the second half, Sanogo stepped out and sank his only 3-pointer. The Huskies then went on a 12-0 run to build a 61-42 lead with 4:33 remaining.

“If I’m open, why not, I’m going to take it,” Sanogo said of the 3.

Butler coach Thad Matta lamented his team’s inability to get closer than the four-point deficit.

“As poorly as we played, and they probably had a lot to do with it, we were in position to have a chance,” Matta said. “Gosh, did we struggle to put the ball in the basket tonight.”

Butler made just 16 of 54 shots (29.6%).

The Huskies are unbeaten in six career meetings against the Bulldogs, starting with a win in the 2011 NCAA championship.

BIG PICTURE

Connecticut: Following a slow start, the Huskies showed off their resolve. Even when it was missing shots, UConn had superior ball movement and was better on the boards to create more scoring chances.

Butler: A second-half comeback came up short, but the Bulldogs proved they can contend with an elite Big East team. Butler had won four in a row before hosting its highest-ranked opponent since No. 1 Villanova in 2017.

UP NEXT

Connecticut: Hosts Georgetown on Tuesday.

Butler: At Creighton on Thursday.

Butler’s Jalen Thomas out indefinitely with heart issue

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INDIANAPOLIS — Butler forward-center Jalen Thomas will be out indefinitely after being diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.

Team officials said the fourth-year player is being treated by the team’s medical staff and local specialists. Doctors believe Thomas can make a full recovery with medication.

The Cleveland Clinic website describes the condition as a blood clot in the lung that restricts blood flow and lowers oxygen levels in the lungs while increasing blood pressure in pulmonary arteries.

While Thomas is expected to participate in non-contact work and conditioning during his recovery, the Bulldogs don’t expect Thomas to play any sooner than December.

The 6-foot-10, 230-pound Thomas transferred to Butler in May after playing three seasons at Georgia State, where he finished fifth on the school’s career list for blocks (116). He was ranked among the Sun Belt Conference’s top shot blockers each of those three seasons.

Butler opens its season with new coach Thad Matta when it hosts New Orleans on Nov. 7.

North Carolina State transfer joins revamped Butler roster

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INDIANAPOLIS — Butler coach Thad Matta landed his second big man in less than a week Monday, announcing the addition of 6-foot-11 Manny Bates from North Carolina State.

The grad transfer had 147 blocks, fourth in school history, and shot 64.7% from the field in two seasons with the Wolfpack. He played just one game last season after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in the first minute of North Carolina State’s season opener.

“Manny’s presence defensively will be incredibly impactful,” Matta said in a statement. “He blocks and alters shots at a high level. Offensively, his size and athleticism give him the ability to score in the post, in the pick-and-roll, and in transition.”

The announcement comes just days after Matta announced that 6-10 forward Jalen Thomas would transfer to Butler from Georgia State. The Bulldogs also recently landed former Akron swingman Ali Ali and are expected to announce soon that a fourth player will transfer into the program.

Last week, Matta also hired former Ohio State stars Greg Oden and Jon Diebler to his staff.

Oden, the IndyStar Mr. Basketball in 2006 and No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007, will serve as director of basketball operations. Diebler will be director of recruiting.

“Both possess great energy and strong basketball knowledge,” Matta said. “They will relate well to our players and will help them grow on and off the court. I was excited years ago when they committed to be part of my program as players, and I’m just as excited they are joining my staff.”

Butler hires Austin Parkinson as women’s basketball coach

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INDIANAPOLIS – Butler hired Austin Parkinson as its new women’s basketball coach Friday, ending a search that lasted a little more than two weeks.

Parkinson won’t even have to leave town. The IUPUI campus is only a few miles away from Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse.

He replaces Kurt Godlevske, who was fired by director Barry Collier on March 22 after two of the worst seasons in Bulldogs history. Butler went 1-27 last season.

“Austin set himself apart from a strong pool of candidates with his experience building a championship-caliber program at IUPUI and his vision for how Butler will achieve similar success within the Big East,” Collier said.

Parkinson, a former Purdue star, left the IUPUI men’s staff in September 2010 to take over the scandal-tinged women’s program. Over the next 12 seasons, the program went 224-141 and became a Horizon League powerhouse.

He posted eight 20-win seasons including a 24-5 mark last season when the Jaguars won their second league tournament title in three years and made the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.

“Everything is in place at Butler for our program to make noise in the Big East and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the Bulldogs,” Parkinson said.

IUPUI chancellor Andrew Klein said a search for Parkinson’s replacement will begin immediately.

It’s the second hiring Butler has made this week. Collier named Thad Matta as the men’s basketball coach on Sunday.

Thad Matta returning to Butler for 2nd stint as head coach

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INDIANAPOLIS – Thad Matta is returning to Butler, hired on Sunday to coach the Bulldogs almost five years after he cited his health while stepping down at Ohio State.

The 54-year-old Matta led Butler to a 24-8 record and an appearance in the 2001 NCAA Tournament during his only season as the head coach at his alma mater. He then had successful runs at Xavier and Ohio State.

Matta spent the 2021-22 season as an associate athletic director for basketball administration at Indiana.

Now he’s going back to where it all started for him.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to return to Butler and lead our men’s basketball program,” Matta said in a release. “There is a solid foundation in place and I’m confident that Butler will consistently be among the top programs in the Big East. I can’t wait to attack the work we have in front of us and to be back on the sidelines at Hinkle Fieldhouse.”

Matta also played for Butler for three seasons after transferring from Southern Illinois as a sophomore. He was an academic coordinator and administrative assistant at Butler from 1991 to 94 and then-coach Barry Collier’s top assistant for the 1999-2000 season.

Matta and his wife, Barb, are Butler graduates. His daughter, Ali, also graduated from the school, and his daughter, Emily, is pursuing her undergraduate degree at Butler.

“The success that Thad has achieved at every one of his programs speaks for itself,” said Collier, who took over as Butler’s athletic director in 2006. “He is a championship-caliber coach and recruiter who brings valuable experience and contagious energy to Butler.”

Matta is replacing LaVall Jordan, who was fired Friday after two straight losing seasons. The Bulldogs were 14-19 this season and tied for ninth in the Big East at 6-14.

Butler played in the 2018 NCAA Tournament and was expected to make it back in 2020 before the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Durham hits clutch 3 to send No. 11 Providence past Butler

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NEW YORK — Al Durham has made plenty of big shots for Providence this season – at the foul line. He was about the last guy anyone would expect to sink a critical 3-pointer.

That’s just how this charmed season has played out for the 11th-ranked Friars.

Durham drained a go-ahead 3 with 41 seconds left for his first basket of the game, and Providence barely got past pesky Butler 65-61 in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals Thursday.

“It was a little rough there for a second,” Durham said. “But, like you said, the last shot went in.”

Nate Watson scored a season-high 26 points for the top-seeded Friars (25-4), who avoided an early exit at Madison Square Garden after winning the first regular-season conference championship in school history.

Jared Bynum, the league’s sixth man of the year, added 16 points off the bench and defensive specialist Justin Minaya made two huge blocks as Providence advanced to the Big East semifinals for the first time since 2018 and fifth since the 2013-14 realignment.

“We didn’t do a lot of things great but we did enough to win,” said Ed Cooley, the Big East coach of the year. “And I think today was a microcosm of the type of season we’re having.”

The gritty Friars, playing for the first time in nine days, improved to 11-2 in games decided by five points or fewer. They will face No. 4 seed Creighton, a 74-63 winner over fifth-seeded Marquette, in the opener of Friday night’s doubleheader.

“Wasn’t pretty out there. We definitely showed some rust,” Cooley said. “I think a lot of that credit goes to the way Butler defended us. But just like the season has gone, I guess we saved our best for last.”

Chuck Harris had 14 points and Bryce Golden scored all 13 of his points in the second half for the ninth-seeded Bulldogs (14-19), who rallied late to beat No. 8 seed Xavier in overtime in the first round Wednesday.

Bo Hodges added 10 points and a career-best 15 rebounds. Butler, however, finished 3 for 19 from 3-point range and shot 36% overall.

“You know, it’s March, so the ball bounces one way or the other,” coach LaVall Jordan said. “A lot of credit to Providence. They’ve been doing this all year in close games. They’ve had guys that have made the shot or made the play. They’ve been surviving and advancing way beyond now. But proud of our guys for the effort and the fight.”

In the first of four sold-out quarterfinals, a boisterous crowd was decidedly in Providence’s favor.

The score was tied 55-all late in a back-and-forth second half before Simas Lukosius sank two free throws and Golden made a layup to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead with 2:38 left.

Watson snagged a loose ball out of the air, dropped in a layup and drew a foul with 1:20 remaining. But he missed the free throw that could have tied it.

Minaya blocked a shot by Harris and the ball went out of bounds to Providence. A.J. Reeves found Durham in the left corner and the Indiana transfer knocked down a clutch 3 that gave the Friars a 61-59 lead and left him 1 for 8 from the field.

It was the first 3-pointer since January for Durham, who is 20 for 96 (21%) from behind the arc this season.

“I would laugh at that, too,” Cooley said. “But you know what? He made it. And I trust him. He’s made some big shots for us the whole time.”

Cooley has called Durham his “closer” because of the lefty guard’s proficiency at the foul line – especially down the stretch. He began the week leading the Big East with 153 made free throws.

Minaya came up with another huge block at the other end flying off the weakside and Hodges missed a contested layup. Bynum hit a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds to go before Hodges scored quickly on a drive.

Providence had trouble getting the ball inbounds cleanly, but Bynum finally secured it and passed to a wide-open Durham for a dunk at the buzzer.

Golden made four straight layups, two on smooth passes from Lukosius, to account for all the points in an 8-0 run that gave Butler a 51-45 lead with 9:13 to play.

“I just try to play with a will,” Golden said. “I knew this could be our last game. And I was just trying to give it everything I had for for the dudes that don’t get any college experience after this.”

There were 26 fouls – 15 on Butler – in a tightly called first half that ended tied at 31. The 6-foot-10, 260-pound Watson bullied the Bulldogs down low and went into the break with 15 points.

“Nate was a monster the whole night,” Cooley said.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: A disappointing season ended with a heartbreaking defeat for the Bulldogs, but they certainly were a tough out in New York. Butler led for more than 21 minutes in a game that featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes. Since joining the Big East in 2013-14, their only appearance in the tournament semifinals came in 2018.

“It’s hard to look at all those guys in the locker room and know we don’t get another practice and we don’t get another road trip together,” Jordan said.

Providence: A founding member of the league in 1979, the Friars are seeking their third Big East Tournament title (1994, 2014).

UP NEXT

Providence clinched the Big East regular-season crown with a 72-51 win over Creighton at home on Feb. 26 in their only meeting. The other one was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.