STORRS, Conn. (AP) — UConn coach Dan Hurley said Adama Sanogo was seething coming into the Huskies’ game against Creighton.
The Big East’s preseason player of the year, upset over comments made about him by Creighton’s Ryan Kalkbrenner last summer, channeled that anger into 26 points and No. 4 UConn bounced back from its first two losses of the season Saturday with a 69-60 win.
UConn’s big man hit 10 of 20 shots, including two 3-pointers, and pulled down nine rebounds. Jordan Hawkins added 17 points for the Huskies (15-2, 4-2 Big East), who won their 17th straight game at Gampel Pavilion, their on-campus arena.
El Paso native and Burges High School graduate Tristen Newton added 13 points and four rebounds for the Huskies, as they snapped a two-game losing streak at Gampel Pavilion.
“If you know me, you know I take stuff personal,” Sanogo said. “Coming into this game, I was ready to go.”
Arthur Kaluma had 14 points for Creighton (9-7, 3-2), which had won three in a row, all by 15 points or more. Ryan Nembhard added 12 points, while Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman each had 11.
Kalkbrenner, who had had been averaging 15.3 points, was held to just nine. The Bluejays 7-foot-1 star was quoted during Big East media day as saying he was going to show people they were wrong to put Sanogo above him on preseason lists.
UConn played that clip for Sanogo at practice this week.
“It’s like, you’re going to poke a Koala bear or poke a, what’s another type, a Teddy bear,” Hurley said. “But poking a Grizzly or a Kodiak bear? That’s the wrong guy to poke, cause he’s a rare person in terms of his will and just his internal toughness.”
UConn led by eight points at halftime and extended it to 11 early in the second half on free throws, but had just one field goal over the first 6 1/2 minutes after intermission.
A jumper from Alexander gave the Bluejays their first lead of the second half at 43-42, capping a 14-2 run.
UConn responded by going inside to Sanogo, who scored the Huskies’ next eight points. A three-point play from Donovan Clingan pushed the lead back to 10 points with nine minutes to play and UConn extended it to 12.
Creighton stayed within striking distance, despite missing 15 straight field goals at one point.
A dunk by Kalkbrenner cut the UConn lead back to six points with four minutes to go, but that was a close as the Bluejays would get.
UConn held Creighton to just eight baskets on 33 attempts in the second half (24.2%).
“They just weren’t falling tonight,” Kaluma said. “But, you never know. We could have come out here and hit all of our shots and this would have looked totally different.”
Hawkins opened the scoring with a left-wing jumper and had the first six Husky points and 11 in the first half.
Sanogo had 14 points before intermission, while holding Kalkbrenner to just three points in the first 20 minutes. Sanogo’s three straight buckets midway through the half while working 1-on-1 against the Bluejays big man gave UConn a 22-19 lead. The Huskies stretched that to 37-29 at the break after a 3-pointer from Tristen Newton, who finished with 13 points.
Creighton: Ranked No. 9 in the preseason, the Bluejays were the favorites to win the Big East and a popular preseason pick to challenge for a national title. This was their first loss to the Huskies after winning the first five meetings between the programs. The Bluejays are now 2-3 against ranked teams this season.
UConn: The Huskies came into the game ranked No. 4 in the nation but fifth in the conference following road losses to Xavier and Providence. They’ll certainly fall in the rankings on Monday, but this win should prevent that drop from being too severe.
Creighton outrebounded UConn 49-34 and outscored the Huskies 28-20 in the paint. But UConn turned the ball over just five times and Creighton did not score off any of those giveaways.
UConn: The Huskies travel to Milwaukee to take on Marquette on Wednesday.
Creighton: The Blue Jays travel to Xavier on Wednesday.