UConn draws No. 9 Creighton in return to Big East
Connecticut's return to the Big East hasn't been as seamless as hoped. After their first three league games were postponed, the Huskies will open Big East play Sunday when the No. 9 Creighton Bluejays pay a visit to Storrs.
Connecticut (3-0) hasn't played since beating Southern California 61-58 on Dec. 3 in Uncasville, Conn. Since then, UConn has postponed or canceled four games, having been shut down for the second time this season by the coronavirus. League games against St. John's, Georgetown and Providence were postponed.
"I told the players, 'In the end, we're going to be out of this,'" UConn coach Dan Hurley said Tuesday. "'We're going to be back to our business. We're going to get hopefully several days to prepare for our first Big East game in several years -- and then no one's going to care.'"
UConn left the Big East in 2013 to join the American Athletic Conference.
The team returned to practice Sunday but in a "modified quarantine" in which players and coaches are required to wear masks at all times during practices.
The program also shut down Nov. 5-19 and had practiced only 11 times in 39 days.
Against the Trojans, James Bouknight scored a team-high 18 points and added seven rebounds in a game the Huskies led by 13 in the second half but had to survive three 3-point attempts in the final seconds.
Bouknight leads the team with 18.7 points per game and contributes 6.3 rebounds while Isaiah Whaley controls the inside, averaging 10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks (five in each of his last two games.)
Creighton (5-2, 1-1 Big East) bounced back from a tough loss to Marquette in the conference opener by rolling past St. John's 94-76 on Thursday. The Bluejays broke open a close game with a 22-4 run early in the second half.
Damien Jefferson had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and just missed completing the Bluejays first triple-double since Benoit Benjamin in 1985.
"Sometimes when a team makes their runs, we start to panic as a team," Jefferson said. "We just tried to stick together. I tried to tell everybody to calm down, we're good. It's the game of basketball. Everybody makes runs. Let's figure it out."
Creighton also led comfortably against Marquette before being overtaken at the end.
The Bluejays are averaging 86.3 points per game and have connected on 48.3 percent (41 of 85) of their 3-point attempts over the last three games. Denzel Mahoney leads the team in scoring (16.2) and Marcus Zegarowski adds 14.7 points and team-highs in assists (5.7 per game) and 3-pointers (21).
--Field Level Media
Updated December 19, 2020