Okon’s forward, Adama Sanogo, begins fasting as part of his observance of Ramadan. His hunger affected most of the games he played during March Madness.
“It’s just something that if you feel empty, you have to do it,” Sanogo said on Friday. This is something I’ve been doing since I was little. It happens during the tournament, so I guess I have to do it.
Yes, Adama Sanogo is hungry and on Saturday night in Houston, the 6-foot-9 Mali-born big man and huskies celebrated.
Saturday night, he led the Huskies with 21 points and 10 rebounds as the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Miami Hurricanes 72-59 to advance to the school’s fifth national championship game. There, they’ll play San Diego State — who beat Florida Atlantic on buzzers earlier in the day.
This entire tournament, which UConn plays in, was a blip and you’ll miss it as well as a very powerful shocker. They won games by 24, 15, 23 and 28 – often in rounds so fast that teams don’t realize how big the lead is until they’re stuck in it.
Miami was its latest victim of this style of play – never leading the game and falling by 20 points at one point, ending with a humiliating 13-point loss.
UConn passed Miami to secure its spot in the national championship game on Saturday
Freshman Huskies forward Adama Sanogo was the game’s leading scorer with 13 points in the first half
Sanogo’s first half performance helped the Huskies take a first half lead
Jordan Hawkins quickly proved that the issues surrounding his non-COVID-related illness are nothing to worry about. Concerns about his readiness to start gripped UConn fans across the country.
But on UConn’s first snap of the game, the second-year guard from Gaithersburg, Maryland caught a pass and dropped a 3-pointer to get the game right for the Huskies.
Huskies big man Sanogo showed he was an all-around threat when he hit a three-pointer for the second basket of the game. Moments later, he did it again.
It took over three and a half minutes before Miami clinched a basket as guard Jordan Miller drove the pass to hit a bunt.
But by the under-16 media timeout, UConn’s top two-way player, Andre Jackson Jr., made his second mistake after guarding Miami’s top scoring threat, Isaiah Wong. He was benched after just four minutes of game time and Virginia Tech transfer guard Nahim Allen stepped in to cover the Hurricanes’ kicker.
UConn’s starting point guard Tristen Newton hit a shot from outside the arc to go up 14-4 under the 14-minute mark. By 13:10, Miami had moved just 1-12 from the field compared to UConn’s 5-10 shooting mark.
The thing the Huskies do better than most teams in this tournament is their ability to prevent teams from getting a second chance at points. Early in the match, they were amazing on the glass at preventing stick shots from hitting the net.
Under the 13-minute mark, Wong drilled a 3-pointer to keep the deficit in check. Freshman Donovan Clingan—who was substituted in Sanogo while he fasted during Ramadan—retaliated by fouling a basket but missing the And-One opportunity.
Guard Jordan Hawkins has started for Connecticut despite suffering from an illness in recent days
Freshman Donovan Clingan (right) replaced Sanogo while he fasted during Ramadan
Huskies guard Tristen Newton (2) hits the ball during Game 1 of a Final Four game
But the huskies are getting sloppy. A poor pass from Hawkins led to a turnover and a corner kick from Harlond Beverley to make it a 16-9 first-half game under 12 minutes. Hassan Diarra converted around the 10-minute mark to make it 16-13 a match. Miami tied the game at 19-19 on a running back 3-pointer from Nijel Pack at the 8:23 mark.
UConn’s offense has never looked quite what it usually does. In a media timeout of 7:40, the Huskies turned the ball over six times and committed six team fouls on Miami’s three fouls.
But coming off that timeout, Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley must have gotten the team’s attention on the same page.
“We needed to put more pressure on the paint,” Hurley said in the post-game press conference in a question posed by DailyMail.com. “I thought we had a little lying gold to start the game… No matter what (assistant coaches) Kimani Young and Luke Murray tell you, it wasn’t their idea to let Adama get thirty to start.
We needed to do more paint. And we needed to restore our defensive advantage. They were all over the attack glass which doesn’t usually happen to us.
The defense seemed stronger, Newton and Sango punched the ball, and the passes were crisper. Okun extended its lead to 25-19 and after missing a shot, sent Miami’s second chance back with a block from Sanogo at about 5:30.
The energy at NRG Stadium was clearly swinging towards UConn. It was peppered with a hard-hit Clingan block until it traveled away from the high court and into the student section. Miami coach Jim Larrañaga called timeout and the Connecticut faithful began chanting their school’s name around the building.
Harlond Beverley was allowed to make the game 16-9 in the first half under 12 minutes
Connecticut Huskies coach Dan Hurley reacts enthusiastically on the sidelines
In less than a four-minute media timeout, Miami had gone 4:24 without scoring. Interestingly, UConn was at one time on an 8-0 run but didn’t shoot within two and a half minutes. The Huskies’ lead was 27-19.
Alleyne changed that with a bucket at the 2:30 mark after his rebound was grabbed by the keeper. Miami had ended the drought earlier. Calcaterra’s triple was his second of the night, and Connecticut led 32-21 with the game down to a minute.
Buck nailed a triple once the clock got under that mark and Alleyne dropped a crosser to bring things up 34-24. Alex Karaban’s buzzer-hitting trip sent the teams into the locker room with a 37-24 advantage.
But even with this bullet still intact, recent history is still on the minds of those present. After all, just last week that same Miami team came back from a massive deficit to knock out the Texans and secure their spot here in Houston.
Sanogo scored the first two baskets of the second period to put Yukon up 41-24. Even when Norshad Omier put a layup on the board for the cane stick, Karaban responded with a 3-pointer.
The two coaches were in separate headspaces. Hurley turned his back on playing the field to pump up the UConn fans who were directly behind him. Moments later, Larrañaga was out of breath and was shouting directions as Isaiah Wong was trying to set something up.
Connecticut guard Joey Calcaterra’s triple was his second of the night
Hurricane forward Norshad Omer (15) reaches for the ball against forward Alex Karaban (11)
In the sub-16-minute media timeout, UConn was 46-28 minutes ahead. Even when Miami was down 7-0 within a minute, and Hurley had called a timeout at 14:18, UConn still led 49-37.
A tricky stretch of play on the Huskies offense was rewarded with a layup from Jackson to make it 51-37, but it was the Canes’ response to the Beverly Three. On the next possession, Hawkins was fouled from behind the arc. He knocked down two of his three free throws to make it a 53-40 game at 12:30.
Isaiah Wong kept Miami in the game. Five points from it cut UConn’s lead to just eight points with 11:48 to go. Clingan missed Karapan’s baseline foul to put the lead back to ten minutes, and a Hawkins triple after just half a minute made it 13 points as the game entered the ten-minute mark of the second half.
When Miami had a timeout at the 8:26 mark, the Huskies were up 60-45. Omier scored just out of that timeout, but UConn’s breakthrough pass led to a massive dunk by Jackson.
At the sixth hour, Miami’s 3-pointer Bensley Joseph cut the lead to 10 points. Stealing from Wong could not lead to anything productive because Calcaterra’s stealing blocked his shot. Miami started full press against the Huskies, but started making mistakes. At five o’clock, they beat UConn 6-1.
By the time the game got to 4:30, Miami was still ten points behind, with a score of 64-54. Hawkins attempted a deep ball from a turnover, but missed. But the keeper caught his rebound and directed it at Karapan – who drove him down the corridor to a single shot that was missed by the new striker. UConn was winning 66-54 by the time the under four-minute media timeout began.
Newton celebrates after scoring when the Hurricanes’ UConn pulled early
Miami guard Harlond Beverley scores for the Hurricanes in the first period
Miami continued to look for a weak spot in the Huskies’ armor but did not have enough time. In that timeout, an alley from Newton emphatically sent Jackson home.
Huskies fans in the stadium started cheering as they had passed so many times when they were closing out games.
At the 1:50 mark, UConn’s lead was 70-54 backed up by a 6-0 lead over the course of two minutes. Three free throws by Wong made it 70-57. Time kept passing. UConn brought in two bench players.
Miami couldn’t respond – finished the night with more offensive rebounds but shot 20-62 on the day. All the while, UConn kept breaking their spirits. Death by shock again.