WASHINGTON, D.C. – Dan Hurley saw three of his players jogging back on defense after Cam Spencer made a 3-pointer to take a 72-47 lead over Georgetown and the FS1 microphones picked up his frustration.
“What are you doing?” Hurley could be heard screaming on the broadcast as Georgetown’s Supreme Cook took the ball into the paint with ease and drew a foul on Donovan Clingan. Steaming, the Huskies’ sixth-year head coach called a timeout and laid into his guys.
Up 63-38 four minutes prior, Hurley was mic’d up on FS1’s “In the Huddle” telling his team during a media timeout: “We are so far from our standard right now. We’re just better than them and they’re missing and we’re blowing opportunities here (on the offensive end) and making the game look way too difficult. Versus a defense of this caliber, it should all be easy.”
Still with a 25-point lead at that point, just one point more than the Huskies’ lead at halftime, human nature had stepped in and Georgetown played a fairly even second half.
“We built such a big lead in the first half, we kind of started playing even with them in the second half and it wasn’t who we were. We let them stay in the game, we looked soft on the defensive end, we weren’t sharp on the offensive end and he was just mad at how we were playing. He knew we could play way better,” said Alex Karaban, who had a game-high 25 points on 10 of 14 shooting.
“That makes him, him. That’s why he’s the best coach and that’s why he has us as No. 1 in the country and why he’s had success everywhere he went. Just from his demeanor and his intensity and his approach toward everything. It’s just: continue to get better and better and don’t rely on what the opponent’s doing, don’t look what they’re doing and just continue to get better every time. No matter how much time is left in the game, no matter how much we’re up, we’ve got to play to the UConn standard and he reminds us of that every media timeout.”
This intensity from Dan Hurley with his team up 25 😳 pic.twitter.com/dGXRTTmxU8
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 10, 2024
UConn won by 25, the program’s widest-ever margin of victory in the series against Georgetown which dates back to 1958. In the second half alone, UConn led just 37-36.
The Huskies have one more conference game on the road at DePaul before the toughest part of their conference schedule begins. UConn has two games remaining against Marquette, a road trip to Creighton and two home games against Villanova and Seton Hall before finishing the regular season in Providence.
“We’re getting to that point in the season where on a made basket, if you don’t sprint back and get loaded up to the ball, your season ends,” Hurley said after the game. “Those are habits and behaviors that have to be entrenched whether you’re up 27 with six minutes to go or whether you’re in a one-point game.”
Tristen Newton’s right hand was wrapped pretty heavily from pregame warmups through the end of the game. The fifth-year point guard only took three shots and made one, but had six rebounds and nine assists. UConn was plus-28 on the scoreboard with him in the game, the highest plus-minus on the team.
“He was banged up, I didn’t want to say anything in the pregame because you just never know,” Hurley said. “It’s like in the NFL, right? If you say somebody’s got hand injury, maybe somebody’s gonna smack the (heck) out of his hand or something so I didn’t say anything about it. But yeah, he played hurt. But he also played what we’re all about. He played ‘We,’ because today was Alex’s day, today was Steph (Castle’s) day, today was Samson (Johnson’s) day in the ball-screen game.
“That’s the great thing about this team: Donovan could come off of an (18-point, 14-rebound performance), Cam could come off the game he just had, Tristen could come off, and they’re willing to allow somebody else to be the hero offensively because it’s all about winning for us.”
Clingan had four points, five rebounds, six assists and four blocks, and Spencer, after scoring 20 points against Butler on Tuesday, had 10 with six rebounds and seven assists.
Karaban, the offensive hero on Saturday, had only seven points in UConn’s last outing as he returned from an ankle sprain two games prior. He sat out the St. John’s game after suffering the injury in the first half against Providence and still playing 34 minutes.
“I think getting that rest and getting the time just to stay off it really helped. It’s the best that it’s felt since the injury so I’m pretty much back to normal now,” Karaban said after the game.
‘I thought he was horrible’
Hurley was shocked when a reporter told him Castle finished with 17 points on Saturday.
“He had 17 today?” Hurley asked before the reporter could finish his question. “I thought he was horrible in the beginning. (Associate head coach Kimani Young) told me he played good at the end.”
Hurley looked down at the final box score and saw that his prized freshman did, in fact, finish with 17 points. He had nine in the first half and eight in the second, all while shooting 8 of 11 from the field. It was the third time in four games that Castle has scored at least 17, with two 20-point performances before what Hurley called a “step back” in a five-point effort against Butler.
“I think with him, his humility, you give all the credit to his parents. I’ve said this a bunch: He doesn’t have fans, he has parents. The other night he was bad against Butler, he had a bad game after two great games, and his dad ripped him, didn’t rip me or Kimani. When you have that and you have his talent, things are gonna go well. Credit to his family,” Hurley said.
“(It’s) just being short-minded,” Castle said, “having a short memory and just coming to play the next game with full confidence, knowing my abilities and knowing that my teammates have a lot of confidence in me and my coaches do as well. So just coming out and playing, picking up the slack.”