Sanogo, UConn pull away from Saint Mary’s, into Sweet 16

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ALBANY, N.Y. – UConn decided to return to its roots five years ago, hiring a former Big East guard as coach and then a couple years later returning to the conference where it became a national power.

Now the Huskies are back in the Sweet 16, looking like the beasts of the Big East again.

Adama Sanogo scored 24 points and Jordan Hawkins delivered from the 3-point line in the second half as UConn pulled away from Saint Mary’s for a 70-55 win on Sunday that put the Huskies in the Sweet 16 for the first time in nine years.

No. 4 seed UConn (27-8) advanced to the West Regional in Las Vegas on Thursday. Next up is eighth-seeded Arkansas, which knocked off No. 1 seed Kansas.

For the second straight game, the Huskies buried an opponent after playing a close first half. UConn outscored Iona and Saint Mary’s by a combined 86-49 in the second half in Albany this weekend.

“Eventually our depth, elite rebounding, top-20 defense, top-five offense, with the depth, I think we’re able to break some teams,” said UConn coach Dan Hurley, a former Seton Hall guard from New Jersey who was hired in 2018.

The Huskies last played in the second weekend of the tournament in 2014, when they won the most recent – and most surprising – of four national titles in a 15-year span. The first three of those titles came as a member of the Big East under coach Jim Calhoun, and all went through the West Region.

That last championship run came as a member of the American Athletic Conference, the league birthed from the Big East’s football-basketball breakup in 2013.

UConn went with the football schools and played seven years in the AAC, where its football program floundered while its vaunted men’s basketball team slipped into irrelevance.

With Hurley in charge, it has risen again, taking another step after being one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament the past two years at a place that never lost its lofty standards.

“I think in the first and even second round of tournaments, it’s more of a burden to play at UConn than it is an advantage,” Hurley said of the pressure.

These Huskies were up to the challenge.

Sanogo followed his 29-point game in the Huskies’ NCAA tourney opener with another powerful and efficient performance in the paint. The 245-pound junior was 11 for 16 from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds, dominating a big-man matchup with Mitchell Saxen (six points, three rebounds and four fouls).

Saint Mary’s (27-8) of the West Coast Conference failed to get out of the first weekend of the tournament for the second straight season as a No. 5 seed.

Aidan Mahaney and Logan Johnson each scored nine for the Gaels, who played the final 25 minutes without third-leading scorer Alex Ducas. The senior left with a back injury, coach Randy Bennett said.

“It’s not all on that. But it did affect our offensive efficiency, and I feel terrible for him,” Bennett said.

UConn used a 14-2 spurt, highlighted by a 3 from Hawkins with 11:28 left in the second half, to go up 51-40.

Hawkins had been scoreless to that point, but he added another 3 coming off a screen moments later to make it 56-45, and the “Let’s Go Huskies!” chants started to reverberate throughout MVP Arena.

“It felt great hitting those shots,” Hawkins said. “Finally found a rhythm.”

Hawkins wasn’t done, making back-to-back 3s to make it 62-47 with 6:38 left. He finished with 12 points.

Meanwhile, the Huskies defense was clamping down on the Gaels, who were held under 60 points for just the fourth time this season.

“We started to turn the ball over a little bit more, which led to them hitting some shots in transition, which really opened up the game for them,” Johnson said.


Saint Mary’s: The Gaels, who have become Gonzaga’s closest rival in the WCC, have reached the Sweet 16 just once in program history in 2010.

“People always say, ‘Hey, get to the next level,’” said Bennett, who is in his 22nd season as Gaels coach. “We’ve been a five seed the last two years, and both years we’ve run into a really good team. Last year was UCLA.”

UConn: The Huskies go nine deep, which allows Hurley to keep his players fresh. Sanogo scored 53 points in 51 minutes in two games, with 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan providing 25 solid minutes off the bench.

“We have so many guys we can go to,” said Andre Jackson, who was playing close to his hometown of Amsterdam.


UConn: The Huskies are 3-1 all-time against Arkansas.

Sanogo, UConn send Pitino, Iona packing from March Madness

uconn iona
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ALBANY, N.Y. — Adama Sanogo scored 10 of his 28 points in the first five minutes of the second half as fourth-seeded UConn took control and beat Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels 87-63 Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies (26-8) advanced to play fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s on Sunday in the West Region after losing in the first round under coach Dan Hurley the last two seasons.

Iona (27-8) had its 14-game winning streak snapped as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion didn’t have the depth to keep up with one of the Big East’s best for 40 minutes.

Walter Clayton Jr. led the Gaels with 14 points.

Now the question is: What’s next for the Gaels’ Hall of Fame coach?

Pitino was coaching in his 24th NCAA Tournament and maybe his last with Iona. The 70-year-old seems to be in line for another high-profile job, with St. John’s as the apparent front-runner to land the two-time national champion.

UConn trailed by a point at half, but came out of the break clicking. A four-point play by Jordan Hawkins immediately gave the Huskies the lead and then Sanogo went to work inside.

The 245-pound junior had a dunk, a hook, a couple of layups and two free throws, scoring of 10 of the Huskies’ next 13 points as they grabbed a 54-43 lead.

The Gaels never really threatened again. Sanogo’s turnaround jumper from the baseline with 6:49 left made it 71-57 and the Huskies cruised into the second round for the first time since 2016.

Hawkins added 13 points, all in the second half, and Sanogo capped his 13-for-17 shooting performance with a long-range jumper to beat the shot clock with 3:05 left to up the lead to 21. He also had 13 rebounds.

Pitino came in with a 54-20 NCAA record, but without a tournament victory since 2017, his last season at Louisville before he was fired amid the second NCAA scandal of his tenure.

Pitino was exonerated when the final ruling was handed down from that investigation just before the start of this season, leading to speculation that bigger schools would come calling when Iona’s season ended.

For a half, it looked like that might be at least another few days.

The pace was brisk and the play was sharp from the start, a first-round matchup that felt a little like a regional final.

Pitino was dapper and active on the sideline in his black suit and silver tie. And the Gaels were fearless in the first half.

They pressured ballhandlers and played at a pace that had to feel familiar to Louisville and Kentucky fans who rooted for Pitino’s best teams.

Berrick JeanLouis made his first two 3-point attempts and scored 11 in the first half for the Gaels.

Neither team led by more than four in the first 20 minutes and Iona’s 6-foot-3 Daniss Jenkins seemed to send a message in the final minute when he came swooping in for an emphatic block on the 7-2 Donovan Clingan to keep the Gaels in front, 39-37 at the break.

UConn, however, had the final response.


Iona: The Gaels fell to 1-16 all-time in the tournament, with their only victory coming in 1980 under the late Jim Valvano against Holy Cross.

UConn: Hurley, in his fifth season at UConn, has the Huskies on the rise, with three straight NCAA Tournament bids after taking over a struggling national power. But they were one-and-done in his first two trips to March Madness, and he talked openly about the pressure to advance this week.


Iona: Maybe a new head coach?

UConn: The last time UConn made the round of 32, it lost to top-seeded Kansas in 2016.

No. 6 Marquette holds off No. 11 UConn in Big East semifinal

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK – After 18 years in the Big East, Marquette has finally made it to Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Tyler Kolek and David Joplin each scored 17 points, and the sixth-ranked Golden Eagles moved into the Big East championship game for the first time by holding off No. 11 UConn 70-68 on Friday night.

Marquette will face No. 15 Xavier for the title Saturday night. The second-seeded Musketeers blew out third-seeded Creighton, 82-60.

Operating with three key players on the bench in foul trouble for a large chunk of time down the stretch, the top-seeded Golden Eagles (27-6) opened a four-point lead on a 3-pointer by Olivier-Maxence Prosper with 3:39 left and then held on at a raucous MSG.

“At one point, I looked out, and we got a bunch of freshmen and sophomores out there fighting, battling, scratching for their lives,” coach Shaka Smart said. “These guys didn’t blink. They were lost in a fight the entire night. It was a ton of fun to watch.”

UConn had a chance to tie or win in the final 10 seconds, but coach Dan Hurley elected not to call a timeout as his team brought the ball across halfcourt.

Jordan Hawkins missed badly on a contested, desperation 3 at the buzzer – and Smart jumped high and pumped his fist in celebration.

“It felt like a lot of people were giving UConn the game coming in. And there was comments made about who owns The Garden and that kind of stuff,” Smart said. “And, you know, we said wait a minute, we won this league. So we’re not taking a back seat to anybody.”

Marquette limited the fourth-seeded Huskies (25-8) to two points over the final 3:50 and kept them scoreless for the last 2 1/2 minutes, winning for the first time in four semifinal appearances at the Big East Tournament since joining the league in 2005.

Kam Jones added 14 points and Prosper scored 11 for the Golden Eagles.

Adama Sanogo had 19 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Huskies, who had won six straight and nine of 10.

“We came into this being one of the hottest teams in the country. We’re not going to let one game set us back,” said forward Alex Karaban, who scored 10 points.

Marquette, the top seed in this tournament for the first time, has won eight in a row for the first time since the 2018-19 season.

Kolek, Joplin and Golden Eagles starting forward Oso Ighodaro were all sitting with four fouls for a while before getting back in the game with a little more than two minutes remaining. Marquette didn’t score for the final 3 1/2 minutes, but still managed to hang on.

“It’s a testament to the depth that we have on our team,” Smart said. “These guys, if you cut them open, you’ll find inside them championship DNA.”

Hawkins, averaging 16.5 points per game, was held to five on 2-for-11 shooting – including 1 of 8 from beyond the arc.

“That was the defensive key to the game,” Smart said.

Joey Calcaterra had a good look for UConn at a potential go-ahead 3 from the corner with 41 seconds left, but it bounced off the rim.

“It felt like a Sweet 16 type of game, Elite Eight type of game,” Hurley said. “We’re going to get our minds right very quickly and get ready to make a run next week.”

When the Huskies trimmed a 10-point deficit to four in the second half, a screaming, fired-up Hurley came flying onto the court at a timeout, waving his arms to urge on rocking UConn fans. Jones was jawing nose-to-nose with Sanogo right in the middle of Connecticut’s forming huddle before an official came zipping in to break it up.

UConn tied it at 60 on a 3 by Calcaterra with 9:22 left, and again at 64 on Karaban’s putback with 6:34 to go.

Chase Ross drained a tiebreaking 3 for Marquette with 6:13 to play, and the Huskies never pulled even again.

Kolek, the Big East Player of the Year, had 14 points and four assists in a first half that featured eight lead changes and four ties. The teams went into the break even at 38-all.

“This is going to be rough,” Hurley said. “It’s going to be a really terrible mental and emotional hangover I would imagine until Sunday.”


UConn: Fell to 10-5 in Big East semifinal games, but is certainly playing well heading into the NCAA Tournament and appears talented enough to make a run to the Final Four.

“We’re going to bounce back for sure next week,” Sanogo said.

Marquette: Has won 13 of 14 overall. The school’s only league tournament crown came in 1997, with four wins in four days at the Conference USA championship in St. Louis.


Marquette split two close matchups with Xavier during the regular season.

Hawkins, No. 11 UConn hold off Providence 73-66 in Big East

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – Playing in front of a packed house, heavy on Huskies fans, fourth-seeded UConn looked like the favorite to win the Big East Tournament – at least for a while.

Jordan Hawkins scored 19 points and No. 11 UConn held off a furious, second-half rally to beat Providence 73-66 on Thursday in the Big East quarterfinals.

The Huskies (25-7) advanced to face top-seeded Marquette in Friday night’s semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

UConn led by as many as 26 with 12:30 left against the Friars.

“For like 28, 30 minutes, we were the best version of ourselves,” coach Dan Hurley said.

The Friars (21-11) turned up the pressure and had the lead down to five several times in the final few minutes.

“I’m really proud of how we responded,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “A lot of teams that would have been a 35-, 40-point loss.”

Alex Karaban made a 3 from the wing for UConn with a minute left to push the lead to 71-63. Noah Locke (14 points) responded with a 3 for Providence to cut the deficit back to five, but the Friars didn’t score again as UConn pushed its winning streak to six games.

“Tell me a team in America playing better than the team we just played?” Cooley said.

The Huskies will be making their third straight Big East Tournament semifinal appearance since rejoining the conference in 2020-21. They have won this tournament seven times, second only to Georgetown’s eight, but they have not played in the championship game since 2011.

Bryce Hopkins scored 16 points to lead fifth-seeded Providence, which has lost three straight and four of five.

The first Big East Tournament meeting since 1998 between two of the conference’s original members was indicative of their recent trajectories for the 33 minutes.

The Huskies got contributions from up and down the lineup and found good looks all over the floor.

Andre Jackson Jr. had an active all-around game with nine points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Tristen Newton scored 16 points with four 3s.

Providence was a step behind on defense and settling for 3s that weren’t going in (6 for 23).

Jackson’s transition dunk sparked an 8-1 closing run in the first half for UConn and 3s by Karaban and Newton started the second half as the Huskies lead reached 21 before many even had time to settle back into their seats.

Jackson turned a Providence giveaway into another fast-break dunk that made it 47-23 with 16:23 left. Cooley called a timeout to try to slow down the Huskies and regroup his team.

Providence managed to whittle the lead to five with 3:33 left, its press rattling the Huskies. UConn turned it over 18 times.

“They feasted off our mistakes,” Hawkins said.

Locke’s corner 3 for the Friars was followed by a steal in the backcourt and layup by Corey Floyd that made it 63-58 and forced Hurley into a timeout as Providence fans came to life.

Cooley came out of the timeout waving his arms to urge on the crowd and try to get his team all the way back.

But it was UConn that responded. Hawkins made a long 3 that reawakened the UConn fans.

“You just got to stay composed in that situation, stay with your team, stay in that tight huddle and just believe,” Hawkins said.


Providence: The Friars head to the postseason hopeful that the late-season skid won’t cost them an NCAA Tournament bid.

“We’ll sit back on Selection Sunday and see where the Friars are going,” Cooley said. “Don’t be surprised if you see us in the Final Four.”

Defense has been a problem. Four of Providence’s last five opponents – including UConn twice – have shot better than 50% from the field.

UConn: The Huskies have won nine of 10 and, despite their seed, look like they could be the favorites to win this tournament.


Newton usually starts, but he came off the bench Thursday.

Hurley didn’t get into specifics, saying only he wanted to send a “small message” to Newton and fellow senior guard Nahiem Alleyne, who is usually the first guard off the bench but was last man in the rotation against Providence.

“Whether you’re playing for the Big East Tournament or a regular-season game, you’ve got to have principles and try to teach some larger lessons,” Hurley said.

Newton had seven assists and made two free throws in the final minute to seal it for the Huskies.


Providence: A second straight NCAA Tournament appearance – probably.

UConn: The Huskies split with Marquette during the regular season, with each team winning at home.

Marquette’s Kolek, Smart collect AP’s top honors in Big East

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Marquette’s Tyler Kolek is the Associated Press Big East player of the year and Shaka Smart is the unanimous pick for coach of the year after the two led the Golden Eagles’ surprising run to their first regular-season championship in 10 years.

Xavier’s Souley Boum was voted newcomer of the year in balloting by 11 writers and broadcasters who cover the conference.

Kolek and Smart led No. 6 Marquette to a school-record 17 conference wins and its highest national ranking since 1978.

Kolek, a unanimous All-Big East first-team pick along with Providence’s Bryce Hopkins, is among the conference leaders in five categories and is playing some of his best ball of late.

Kolek will enter the Big East Tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden off three straight double-doubles, averaging 20.3 points and 11.3 assists in those games. His 7.9 assists per game for the season leads the Big East and is second nationally.

Smart combined high-scoring offense with aggressive defense to make the Golden Eagles the first team since the Big East formed in 1979-80 to win at least a share of the title after being picked ninth or lower. Marquette beat every league team at least once for the first time since it joined the league in 2005-06.

Hopkins, in his first season at Providence after transferring from Kentucky, has 10 double-doubles and leads the Friars with 16.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Joining Kolek and Hopkins on the first team are Boum and big men Adama Sanogo of Connecticut and Ryan Kalkbrenner of Creighton.

Boum played at San Francisco and UTEP before landing at Xavier this season, and he emerged as the Musketeers’ top player. He’s second in the Big East in scoring with 16.8 points per game and third in 3-point shooting at 42.2%. His 4.5 assists are second on the team and tied for sixth in the league.


u-Guard – Tyler Kolek, Marquette, Jr., 6-3, 190, Cumberland, Rhode Island.

Guard – Souley Boum, Xavier, Gr., 6-3, 175, Oakland, California.

u-Forward – Bryce Hopkins, Providence, So., 6-7, 220, Oak Park, Illinois.

Forward – Adama Sanogo, Connecticut, Jr., 6-9, 245, Bamako, Mali.

Center – Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton, Jr., 7-1, 260, Florissant, Missouri.


Guard – Kam Jones, Marquette, So., 6-4, 195, Memphis, Tennessee.

Guard – Colby Jones, Xavier, Jr., 6-6, 205, Birmingham, Alabama.

Guard – Jordan Hawkins, Connecticut, So., 6-5, 195, Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Forward – Eric Dixon, Villanova, Jr., 6-8 255, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

Center – Joel Soriano, St. John’s, Sr., 6-11, 260, Yonkers, New York.

u-Coach of the year – Shaka Smart, Marquette.

Player of the year – Tyler Kolek, Marquette.

Newcomer of the year – Souley Boum, Xavier.

-“u” denotes unanimous selection.

AP All-Big East Voting Panel: Nick Bahe, Fox Sports; Adam Baum, Cincinnati Enquirer; David Borges, CT Insider (Norwalk, Conn.); Zach Braziller, New York Post; Jerry Carino, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press; John Fanta, Fox Sports; Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star; Steve Greenberg, Chicago Sun-Times; Joel Lorenzi, Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald; Kevin McNamara, WPRO (Providence, R.I.); Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Edwards, UConn top Villanova to win another Big East title

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – For nearly 30 years, when the calendar turns to March, Geno Auriemma has UConn ready to play its best on the biggest stage.

This season was one of the most challenging in recent memory for the Hall of Fame coach and his team. The Huskies lost consecutive games for the first time in three decades and suffered through injury after injury that left them with just seven healthy players some games.

Despite those setbacks, the end result was the same: another Big East Tournament title.

Aaliyah Edwards had 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead No. 7 UConn to its 10th consecutive conference tournament title with a 67-56 victory over 10th-ranked Villanova in the championship game Monday night.

“Well, we talked about it before the game that given everything we’ve been through. I think it gave us a little more resiliency, a little more strength. I think we got a little more tougher as the season went on. And it showed up these three days,” Auriemma said. “These kids know when it’s March time, they’ve been in a couple of Final Fours. I think there’s a different vibe in our team.”

Dorka Juhasz added 16 points and Lou Lopez Senechal scored 14 for the top-seeded Huskies (29-5), who earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. UConn has now won 21 Big East Tournament crowns, including the last three since re-entering the conference in 2020. The Huskies won all seven titles when they were in the American Athletic Conference.

Next up, the Huskies will try to extend their record run of reaching 14 consecutive Final Fours.

“We’re talented, but we’re disciplined and dedicated to win,” Edwards said. “It speaks to our standard and to what we are as a program and we’re a winning program. That’s what we did today.”

The Huskies celebrated by dumping confetti on each other and Auriemma even showed off his dance moves, doing “The Griddy” with his grandkids. It has been a rough year personally for Auriemma, as his mother died in December and he had to miss time with illness.

“So many things have happened on and off the court this past season personally, team-wise, everything, that to get to this point you want to close that book,” Auriemma said. “And now start a brand new one starting next Sunday. That book ended the right way. A lot of acts, lot of tragedies, ups and downs. The book ended the right way. Now it’s time for a new one.”

Trailing 22-21 in the second quarter, UConn turned up its defense and outscored Villanova (28-6) 13-2 over the final 6:09 of the half to go up 34-24 at the break. Edwards, the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, had 12 points, making all six of her shots, and nine rebounds in the opening 20 minutes.

The Huskies put away the game by scoring 22 of the first 29 points in the third quarter to extend the advantage to 25.

It has been a difficult year for the Huskies, who have dealt with a host of injuries starting with Paige Bueckers tearing her ACL over the summer. UConn has been getting healthier lately, with Azzi Fudd returning for the Big East Tournament after missing the previous 14 games with a knee injury.

Lopez Senechal and Edwards are the only UConn players to have been in every game this season.

The Huskies lost two conference games for the first time since 2012-13 and suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since 1992-93.

But UConn has turned it on in March. Monday’s win was a rematch of last season’s championship game that UConn won 70-40. This one was more competitive for a half, just like the two regular-season meetings which the Huskies won by five and nine.

“I think we’re a team that’s always ready for March,” Lopez Senechal said. “I think even if we have a rough stretch, we knew how to overcome it, we knew how to play together. I think that’s why we’re here right now. I’m super proud of the whole team.”

Villanova was cold from the field at the start, making just 6-of-25 (24%) in the first quarter, including missing all 10 of its 3-point attempts. The Wildcats trailed 19-14 at the end of the first despite having 10 offensive rebounds. They finally hit a 3-pointer to open the second and went on an 8-2 run to take the brief lead. Then UConn took over.

Maddy Siegrist led the Wildcats, who moved up to 10th in the AP poll Monday for the school’s best ranking ever, with 22 points.

“She does it better than most scoring the ball,” Villanova coach Denise Dillon said. “Finding different ways to score. Sheer determination. She found spots and created a couple looks around the basket.”


Siegrist has 984 points this season and is looking to become the fifth player to score over 1,000 in a season. The Big East Player of the Year would join Kelsey Plum (1,109), Jackie Stiles (1,062), Odyssey Sims (1,054) and Megan Gustafson (1,001). Siegrist led the nation in scoring (29.7 points) coming into Monday night’s game. She extended her streak to 34 consecutive games scoring 20-plus points. She’s one short of Plum’s record set in 2016-17.