UConn rolls to Senior Day blowout over Georgetown as six players hit double figures

STORRS — Patrick Ewing could only watch helplessly from the sidelines, unable to throw down a dunk, block a shot, even goaltend.

On Saturday afternoon, in Ewing’s first trip to Gampel Pavilion as a coach or player, UConn exacted some sort of revenge on Ewing’s Georgetown teams that used to beat up the Huskies back in the early 1980s.

The Huskies dominated from the opening tip, scoring the game’s first 12 points and opening up a 27-point halftime lead that trumped even the UConn women’s nearly simultaneous halftime edge about 40 minutes down the road at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Ultimately, UConn’s 98-82 win over the Hoyas wasn’t quite as much of a blowout as Geno’s crew’s 36-point win over St. John’s. But in many ways, it may have been even more impressive.

James Bouknight scored an efficient 21 points on 12 shots, including 5-for-8 on 3-pointers, to lead the way.

“It was nice to see him shoot it like that,” said coach Dan Hurley. “He shoots it like that a lot. The injury stuff (earlier in the season) hurt his rhythm as a shooter, but he certainly looked comfortable.”

The five 3-pointers matched the sophomore star’s season-high, previously accomplished in his 40-point masterpiece against Creighton on Dec. 20.

“Going into every game, the approach is playing my game and letting it come to me,” Bouknight said. “I feel like when I start to force things and make stuff happen, that’s when I get a little out of control. I went into this game with the mindset of letting it come to me, and whatever comes, it comes.”

But Bouknight was hardly the only star of the show in a remarkable team effort that saw 11 different players score, six of them in double figures.

Jalen Gaffney scored 15 points and didn’t miss any of his six shots (including a trio of 3-pointers). Tyrese Martin, Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polley (the latter two playing their final home games as seniors) added 11 points apiece. Freshman Adama Sanogo notched a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“Our confidence level is really high right now,” said Polley. “We’re clicking right now and playing real good basketball.”

Even little-used red-shirt freshman Richie Springs got in on the act, knocking down a jumper inside the final minute for his first collegiate field goal.

In all, the Huskies knocked down a dozen 3-pointers, their season-high. They shot a whopping 59 percent from the floor overall and 43 percent from 3. UConn’s 98 points were the most its scored in a Big East game this season (surpassing the 82 against DePaul on Dec. 30) and second only to the 102 against Central Connecticut State on Nov. 25 for most in a season.

It was also the 200th win of Hurley’s head coaching career.

Georgetown (9-12, 7-9 Big East) had won four of its last five games entering the contest, including wins over Big East bubble teams Seton Hall and Xavier that had Hurley mentioning Ewing as a legit league Coach of the Year candidate.

The Hoyas’ last two losses have come to UConn. UConn is not a bubble team.

“We’re just clicking on all cylinders,” Gaffney noted. “We’re all really confident going into the Big East tournament.”

The Huskies finish what Hurley calls their “irregular season” — marked by multiple game postponements, cancellations and COVID-19 pauses — at 14-6 overall, 11-6 in the Big East and the No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. UConn’s first game will be on Thursday at 9 p.m. against the winner of Wednesday night’s bout between No. 6 Providence and No. 11 DePaul.

The Huskies jumped out to a 12-0 start and led 15-2 after hitting their first six shots, three of them 3-pointers. At one point, UConn was 12-for-19 from the floor and 6-for-10 from 3, and wound up shooting 58 percent (19-for-33) from the field and 44 percent (7-for-16) from 3 for the half.

“It was a point to come out strong and aggressive and try to make the first punch,” Polley said. “Last game, we came out kind of slow, so the emphasis was to come out faster.”

UConn owned a 23-9 advantage on the boards at the break over Georgetown, the top rebounding team in the Big East.

Perhaps most impressively, the Huskies kept up the intensity despite the big lead. Other than a 7-0 Hoya mini-run early in the latter half that caused Hurley to burn a timeout, UConn continued to dominate until the end. Hurley wasn’t overly pleased with his team’s defensive play for parts of the latter half, saying his team “played to the score” a little too much.

But it was hard for the head coach to complain about too much on Saturday.

“For us to be a factor deep into the Big East tournament or to win games in the NCAA tournament, you’ve got to maintain a very high level of play,” Hurley said. “But if we defend and rebound at a high level, and be the hardest-playing team on the court and can make some 3’s, we’ll be tough to beat.”

RIM RATTLINGS

** Whaley, Polley and Josh Carlton, all seniors, and junior Brendan Adams (who’ll graduate in May) were honored in pregame Senior Day festivities. Emotional messages from all four players’ family members were played on the videoboard prior to the start of the game.

“This was an important game, on a number of levels,” said Hurley, “but we wanted to honor our seniors by finishing the season the right way.”

** Bethany’s Chris Mastrangelo, a senior team manager, was also honored as part of the Senior Day festivities. Mastrangelo could be back with the team in some capacity next year.

** UConn hosted about 200 front-line healthcare and public safety workers for the game.

“Those are real heroes,” Hurley said. “It was an honor to perform in front of them today.”

** Georgetown’s players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

david.borges@hearstmediact.com