By NEILL OSTROUT, Associated Press
STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Former UConn star James Bouknight of the Charlotte Hornets was ejected from his side by a game official on Saturday in the second half as the No. 24 Huskies held off Xavier 72-61.
Bouknight, who played two seasons for Connecticut and is in his rookie NBA season, was sitting front row across from the Xavier bench when asked to leave.
Bouknight later moved to the student section of UConn.
“It wasn’t an ideal scenario because we were playing badly and melting a bit,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “He got pushed around. I didn’t really see what happened. And then I saw him again somewhere near the student section.
RJ Cole and Tyler Polley each scored 16 points for UConn (19-7, 10-5 Big East), which has won four of its last five games. Adama Sanogo had 15 points and nine rebounds.
Xavier (17-9, 7-8), who lost four of five, trailed Adam Kunkel’s 15 points. Zach Freemantle added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Playing in front of a raucous, sold-out crowd for the second straight game, the Huskies hit 52% of their shots and took a 17-point halftime lead.
That UConn advantage quickly dissipated early in the second period as the Huskies struggled with turnovers under heavy pressure. UConn turned the ball over 10 times in the first seven minutes of the second half, watching Xavier fire it 49-43.
“We let our guard down a bit and were too laid back, too weak,” Hurley said.
Xavier had scored 10 points in a row before Cole’s 3-pointer with 12 minutes left ended the push. The Musketeers eventually got within four before Cole scored on a pair of field goals that extended his side’s advantage to 10 with just under two minutes to go.
UConn is 7-0 this season at Gampel Pavilion, its on-campus arena.
Xavier won the first meeting between the teams 74-68 nine days earlier. In this game, the Musketeers had a 35-31 advantage in rebounding.
The Huskies were much better in that category in the rematch, pulling 42 rebounds to Xavier’s 26. Senior Tyrese Martin led UConn with 11 rebounds.
“Obviously we were able to overtake them at home,” Xavier coach Travis Steele said. “I’m sure they (UConn players) have heard that story or that stat many times over the last few days. And they put us on the glass. They’re the No. 2 offensive rebounding team in the country for a reason. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic, they’re physical. I thought they set that tone early on.
UConn missed its first five shots in the game and went scoreless for more than three minutes. The Huskies used an 18-5 streak to take a 44-27 lead at the break.
HONORING A BARRIER-BREAKER
UConn inducted Harrison “Honey” Fitch into its Huskies of Honor on Saturday, recognizing the first black basketball player in program history.
Fitch, who played at UConn from 1932 to 1934 when it was known as Connecticut State College, saw his jersey join Ray Allen, Kemba Walker, Jim Calhoun, Rebecca Lobo and Diana Taurasi on the wall at the inside the Gampel pavilion for half time. ceremony.
The Huskies of Honor program, which is the school’s version of a hall of fame, was launched in 2006.
Fitch died in 1984 but his son, Harrison “Brooks” Fitch Jr. was in attendance Saturday.
“We are very proud as a family. We are proud, happy, honored and honored with this honor,” said Brooks Fitch, a 1964 UConn graduate.
Honey Fitch was forced to deal with a great deal of racism during her college years, perhaps no greater than when the Coast Guard Academy refused to play Connecticut State College on January 27, 1934, because it featured a black player.
“Going back to an incident that happened in 1934, a racist incident, around that time UConn escalated dramatically,” Fitch said. “And that’s also what’s happening in 2022. That level of recognition is very, very important.”
Xavier played pretty well and pulled himself together to make things close, but still lost four of his last five games. They’re still in good enough shape to go into the NCAA Tournament, but obviously they need more wins to be sure.
“It’s a long season, it’s a marathon. We must stick together. We have to stay positive. We’re going to get out of this rut,” Steele said.
With three wins since Sunday, UConn should move up a few places from its current perch.
Xavier: Goalkeeper Nate Johnson, the Musketeers’ fourth leading scorer, missed the game with a knee injury.
UConn: Forward Akok Akok missed his sixth straight game with a foot injury, although the junior warmed up with his teammates on Saturday.
Xavier: Plays at No. 8 Providence on Wednesday.
UConn: Host No. 10 Villanova on Tuesday at Hartford.
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