No. 20 UConn and visiting Seton Hall will duke it out for fifth place in the Big East on Saturday afternoon in Storrs, Conn.
While the Huskies (19-7, 8-7) have had a difficult time with the Big East schedule, bracket analysts remain confident they will make the NCAA Tournament field as a high seed.
The stakes are much different for the Pirates (16-11, 9-7), who are on the wrong side of the bubble and have some work to do even with a previous win over UConn in their pocket.
Seton Hall stunned UConn 67-66 on Jan. 18 in Newark, N.J., after trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half and by 14 at halftime. The Pirates stormed back and took their first lead on Kadary Richmond’s jumper with 1:08 to go.
After the Huskies moved back in front on Tristen Newton’s free throws, KC Ndefo grabbed an offensive rebound and scored the game-winning putback with less than two seconds remaining.
Richmond had team highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds for Seton Hall that day, while Ndefo added 14 and eight, respectively.
“We’re starting to understand what I want,” Pirates coach Shaheen Holloway said after that game. “We’re starting to understand that if we defend and keep teams out of transition, we give ourselves a chance to win the game.”
But the Pirates have gone just 4-3 since then, beating the teams in the Big East cellar but failing to capitalize on chances to beat ranked opponents Marquette and Creighton at home.
Most recently, Seton Hall had to fend off last-place Georgetown late in Tuesday’s game for a 76-68 home win. Al-Amir Dawes scored 20 points to lead four Pirates in double figures.
“I didn’t like us (Tuesday) at all,” Holloway said. “I don’t understand why you’d come out like that in such an important game at home. … We gotta bring our own juice, and we just didn’t have it.”
UConn will be out for revenge on its New Jersey conference rivals and will host the rematch on campus, where it is 6-1 this season.
Since the disheartening loss to Seton Hall put them in a 1-5 slide, the Huskies have gone 4-2. Their three-game winning streak ended last Saturday with a 56-53 loss at then-No. 23 Creighton.
Jordan Hawkins appeared to tie the game at 54 in the final three seconds with a 3-pointer, but his foot was determined to be on the arc. UConn had to foul and Creighton iced the game with two foul shots.
Adama Sanogo led UConn with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Huskies played strong defense, but they were done in by a season-worse 32.3 percent shooting performance.
“I think we did a good job defense-wise,” Sanogo told reporters, “but we just didn’t play good enough to win the game because we missed a lot of shots that we usually don’t miss … We just didn’t finish this game.”
Sanogo averages 17.2 points and 7.3 rebounds to pace UConn, while Hawkins averages 16.2 points and Newton adds 10.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and a team-best 4.3 assists per contest.
Dawes is Seton Hall’s leading scorer at 12.6 points per game and is shooting 41.0 percent from 3-point range, including 43.2 percent (19-for-44) in his past six games.
Tyrese Samuel adds 10.7 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds per game, while Richmond does some of everything (10.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and team highs of 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals).
–Field Level Media