UConn men top Georgetown behind R.J. Cole, James Bouknight

UConn's James Bouknight plays against Villanova on Saturday in Villanova, Pa. Bouknight had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Huskies' win against Georgetown on Tuesday.

UConn’s James Bouknight plays against Villanova on Saturday in Villanova, Pa. Bouknight had 20 points and 10 rebounds in the Huskies’ win against Georgetown on Tuesday.

Matt Slocum / Associated Press

UConn hit six of its first seven shots of the game on Tuesday night, and also hit six of its final seven shots.

In between, there were stretches of poor shooting, sloppy turnovers and, in coach Dan Hurley’s own words, “doing bizarre things with the ball.”

Ultimately, there was enough James Bouknight and R.J. Cole to lead the Huskies to a 70-57 victory over Georgetown.

Bouknight, gassed after 36 minutes against Villanova on Saturday, certainly looked fresh down the stretch against the Hoyas. The sophomore guard finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while also connecting with Cole on a pair of alley-oop dunks and burying a late 3-pointer to all but settle UConn’s win at McDonough Arena.

“Our mentality going into each game is just “kill or be killed,” the 6-foot-5 guard said. “We all want to win so bad.”

But it was Cole who stepped up biggest of all. The junior point guard scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half, shooting 7-for-9 in that stanza, while also adding seven assists, six steals and countless floor burns from diving after loose balls all game.

“When we see a teammate diving on the floor, that tells you, ‘OK, we’re ready to play,’” Cole said. “We haven’t really got to it, being the first one to 50-50 balls, but we surely did it in this game. And we have to continue doing it moving forward.”

“He didn’t have a good first half, he put it behind him and really led the way,” Hurley said. “I’m really proud of how he played.”

UConn (11-6, 8-6 Big East) needed that scrappiness, because for large swaths of the game, the shots just weren’t falling. After making its first five shots for a 10-0 start and six of its first seven for a 12-2 advantage, UConn missed nine of its next 10 attempts. Although the Huskies held Georgetown to a mere 26-percent shooting for the first half, the Hoyas enjoyed a 26-25 halftime lead following Jamari Sibley’s 3-pointer just before the break.

UConn’s defense remained strong through much of the latter half. The Huskies wound up outrebounding the top rebounding team in the Big East by a 46-30 margin, including 18 offensive boards (though they only converted them into nine second-chance points). Georgetown shot 36-percent for the game.

Meanwhile, the shots started falling. Or at least the ones taken by Bouknight (5-for-8, 14 second-half points) and Cole.

“I had to figure out how to step up, in different ways, for my teammates,” Cole said. “I just wanted to make sure that I came out there being aggressive.”

Added Hurley: “We just hung in there defensively, and really through much of the second half until we were able to find a little bit of a rhythm. To shoot 56-percent is a great half. Obviously, the turnovers in the first half were just bizarre, at times. It was a good win. These guys are playing really well. Patrick (Ewing’s) doing a great job with these guys. To come on the road and struggle through parts of the game, to come out with the win feels good.”

UConn had missed a whopping 11 straight shots late in the first half before Hurley called a timeout and set up an alley-oop from Cole to Bouknight. That momentum was short-lived, however, follwing Sibley’s trey to close out the half.

Georgetown (7-11, 5-8 Big East) was still within three with 8:18 to go when Cole hit Bouknight for another alley-oop jam. This one helped spark a 15-4 Husky run.

“That’s an energy boost,” Bouknight said. “You see the bench after those dunks, the energy just changes and it helps us push through. Today, it helped us get the win.”

Freshman Adama Sanogo had eight points and seven rebounds for UConn, but no one else really came up big, despite Hurley rotating 10 different players. Fortunately for the Huskies, R.J. Cole and James Bouknight came to play, and the defense never rested.

“The mindset today was to have an elite defensive mindset, defense first, let offense happen for you,” Hurley said. “And, obviously, the rebounding piece. Defend and rebound at the highest level, let offense happen for you and to you. That’s a winning formula.”

RIM RATTLINGS

 Although Hurley used 10 different players, sophomore Akok Akok wasn’t one of them. The 6-foot-9 forward is still struggling in his return from a torn Achilles tendon suffered a little over a year ago, as well as more recent shin issues.

“For the rest of the way, it’s really just a game-by-game proposition (for Akok),” Hurley said. “How the practices are going leading in, how he’s feeling, the amount of practice reps he’s able to get. There’s gonna be moments where he’s feeling great and he can come in and help us, like he did against Xavier. But we’ve really tried to stress to him that at the 18-month mark, he’s going to feel like his old self and surpass his old self. He just has to be patient.”

 Brendan Adams, who hadn’t played at all the past three games, returned to the floor for three minutes late in the first half. The junior guard grabbed one rebound.

david.borges@hearstmediact.com