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UConn pulls away from CCSU to win opener

Storrs — UConn turned in the type of uneven performance that's often typical in a season opener.

The Huskies still pulled away from Central Connecticut State University in the second half and cruised to a 102-75 victory on Wednesday at Gampel Pavilion.

Coach Dan Hurley expected better from his Huskies. He wasn't happy after the game.

He was especially critical of his team's defense that allowed the Blue Devils to shoot 50 percent from the field.

"We were really bad defensively," Hurley said during his Zoom press conference. "We were really disappointed with the way we guarded the ball and our ball screen defense. We dictated very little. Just picking up and playing man defense eventually just wore them out."

Hurley attributed his team's breakdowns to a lack of preparation time leading up to Wednesday's game. The Huskies returned to practice last Thursday after a 14-day layoff due to the fact that a player tested positive for COVID-19.

"This isn't something that I'm going to be able to go to for a long time," Hurley said. "When you're out two weeks and miss 12 practices right before the opener and you get four or five days to get your team ready.. ... It's hard to develop that defensive intensity, the defensive toughness and the defensive mentality when you can't do defensive drills and when you can't have hard practices."

Hurley continued his rant.

"If you're going to have to sit out two weeks, there should be a rule in place where you get at least a week to prepare before you step out on the court. Something should be mandated. If we're sticking to the two weeks where you can't practice, it's not fair for anybody involved. I know everyone wants college basketball back, we desperately want it back. I know the networks want the programming. Everybody needs this back. But we've got to do right by these kids."

"... Today was like an extended practice. Unfortunately, the ramifications of losing one of these extended practices could wreck your season."

The Huskies did some good things.

They rode a balanced attack. as five players scored in double figures. Sophomore James Bouknight led the charge with 20 points while newcomer R.J. Cole (17 points), junior Brendan Adams (15), senior Tyler Polley (14) and senior Isiah Whaley (12) also had productive offensive games. The Huskies shot 56 percent from the field.

Bouknight also added a team-best eight rebounds.

"I tried to calm myself down and get myself to play my game and not force anything," Bouknight said. "I tried to get my teammates involved and do the little things."

After 10 lead changes in the first half, the Huskies gradually took control, holding a 48-41 edge at the break. They opened the second half on a 13-4 run to build their biggest lead at that point, 61-45. Whaley's second straight dunk capped the spurt.

Once UConn gained a double digit edge, it stayed in attack mode. The Huskies outscored the Blue Devils, 54-34, in the second half. They out-rebounded their smaller opponents by a 43-22 margin overall.

Hurley played all 12 available players. Transfer Tyrese Martin missed the game to serve a one game NCAA penalty for playing in an unsanctioned summer basketball league.

Freshman forward Adama Sanogo made a good first impression for the Huskies, finishing with eight points and seven rebounds.

"It was a good debut for him," Bouknight said. "He's just going to keep moving forward from this game."

Now UConn has only one day to get ready for its next game. Hartford visits Gampel Pavilion on Friday night.

The Hawks will likely be a tougher challenge than the Blue Devils.

The Huskies have won all 15 meetings in the in-state series against CCSU.

The Blue Devils are in a rebuilding mode, coming off a four-win season. The game gave coach Donyell Marshall, a former Husky great, a chance to return to his former college home.

"It was great to come back," Marshall said. "Without the fans, it felt a little weird. ... It felt like a scrimmage almost."

g.keefe@theday.com

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