It’s been a treacherous week for college basketball’s top teams.
Four of the nation’s top five squads have lost to unranked foes since Tuesday, with No. 4 UConn remaining as the group’s only team without a shocking setback during that time.
Escaping this week unscathed requires the Huskies (14-2, 4-1 Big East) to clear one final hurdle, a date with Georgetown (8-8, 1-4) on Sunday in Hartford, Conn.
UConn returns home having won four straight after prevailing in a pair of Big East road tests. The Huskies rallied past Butler 88-81 on Jan. 5 and staved off a late surge by Xavier to win 80-75 on Wednesday.
Tristen Newton scored 16 points against the Musketeers, including two free throws with five seconds left to secure the victory.
The Huskies led 76-62 after Hassan Diarra’s layup with 4:24 left but managed one field goal the rest of the game. Xavier used a 13-2 run to close within three points with 15 seconds remaining before Newton sealed UConn’s win at the line.
Newton bundles his 15.2 scoring average with 6.4 rebounds and a team-leading 6.0 assists per game. Fellow guard Cam Spencer and forward Alex Karaban supply 15.4 and 14.8 points, respectively.
The Huskies’ near-collapse on Wednesday wasn’t alarming for coach Dan Hurley, who knew his team would have to grind out a victory in Cincinnati.
“We got just a little bit disorganized on some things we would normally run,” Hurley said. “And to win a game like this, in a place like this … we weren’t going to walk out of (here) with a 17-point win. There was going to be some adversity late, and we overcame it.”
Like the Huskies, the Hoyas faced adversity late in their most recent game but didn’t fare as well in a 74-70 home loss to Seton Hall on Tuesday.
After rallying from 16 down to take a 65-62 lead with 3:15 remaining, Georgetown committed four straight turnovers amid Seton Hall’s 8-0 run that left the Hoyas trailing with 46 seconds left.
Georgetown twice pulled within a possession in the closing seconds, but the Hoyas’ late turnover troubles proved costly.
“It’s just unacceptable when we have the ball up three (points) and end the game like that,” forward Ismael Massoud said. “… There’s nothing a coach can do to deviate that.”
Jayden Epps’ 18.2-point scoring average leads the Hoyas and ranks second in the Big East entering play on Saturday.
Georgetown sits second from last in the Big East standings, but coach Ed Cooley said he believes the Hoyas’ chemistry and confidence are strengthening.
Sunday’s game will reveal how much Georgetown has grown since its last test against a Top 10 team. The Hoyas flunked that test by way of an 81-51 thrashing at the hands of then-No. 6 Marquette on Dec. 22 in Milwaukee.
“That’s what the Big East is all about,” Cooley said of Sunday’s game. “We get an opportunity to play a Quad 1 game on the road.
“We can’t put our heads down. We gotta grow up, pull up our pants (and) do our deal.”
–Field Level Media
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