Storrs, Conn — UConn have a lot of to prove this 2021 season and they wanted to come out to send a clear message to CCSU.
The Blue Devils were overmatched and it looked like an exhibition game. The Huskies beat CCSU 99-48 before 10,148 at a sold-out Gampel Pavilion on Tuesday night in Connecticut.
UConn struggled in the first half, in a 102-75 victory over Central to open last season. The Huskies jumped on the Blue Devils early this time around. Tyrese Martin stole and inbound pass and dunked to make it 4-0, jump starting the offensive onslaught.
“The whole theme with the team has been, ‘We should hit the ground running,’” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “Every one is a year better and a year more mature as a player, and we expected to hit the crowd running. And with a crowd like that, a student section like that on opening night, it’s hard not to get out there and perform at a high level.”
This was kind of a old school adage. Teams on this level are used to coming into Gampel and taking whipping with a check for $80,000 or $90,000 and coming their way. Some teams have been competitive in recent years, though. There were even losses to Wagner and Northeastern in 2016.
UConn came out the gate on 100, draining its first eight shots and running out to a 22-5 advantage. The Huskies turned up the pressure up on defense and continued to attack on offense until the game well out of control. They got the ball on the blocks to Adama Sanogo, who was 9-for-11 for 20 points, and hit enough threes to create enough space on court to run their high-low game.
“I was able to score a lot today,” Sanogo said, “because that team didn’t have a lot of big men. That’s one point, another point could be, it’s tough to guard me.”
Central couldn’t stop Sanogo down low, the anchor to UConn front line that spent all game on the rim. Last season at this time, Sanogo was just getting used to a new university, a new program and system, trying to work his way into a rotation during the pandemic. He will be difference maker down the stretch.
R.J. Cole scored 15 points, hitting his three 3-point shots, and Tyrese Martin chipped in 14 for the Huskies, Tyler Polley 11 and Gaffney 10. Akok Akok, who is coming off his Achilles surgery had 9 points, hitting a 3-pointer, seven boards and two blocks.
“We’re a very talented team and we all know that,” Cole said. “It’s just a matter of us playing to our identity every day and making sure we come out with the necessary toughness, grit.”
Central’s Joe Ostrowsky scored 12, Nigel Scantlebury 11, but the Blue Devils turned the ball over 29 times.
“We prepared for the last two weeks against pressure and against what we thought we were going to see,” Central coach Patrick Sellers said. “But you just can’t duplicate that size and that length [in practice].”
With a full house, the first at Gampel since before the pandemic, UConn came out “with force,” as Hurley had called for, and didn’t let their feet off the gas pedal like last season.
The Blue Devils is a rebuilding mid-major program with 10 new players. They know they will have to take their lumps during the season. No season is about where or how the ride begins. It’s about how it ends.