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Feb 8, 2024 3:05 pm

Spiraling Georgetown braces for visit by No. 1 UConn

alex karaban

After playing four games in 10 days, UConn enjoyed some much-needed downtime before Saturday’s road tilt with Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

The top-ranked Huskies (21-2, 11-1 Big East) had three days to rest and refuel for the Hoyas (8-14, 1-10) after Tuesday’s 71-62 home win over Butler, which pushed UConn’s winning streak to 11 games.

“Our scheduling has been tough … we’ve been playing a lot of teams that are coming off of a longer break,” Huskies coach Dan Hurley said. ” … It’s almost like the (Big East is) mad at us.”

UConn’s break is particularly timely for starting forward Alex Karaban, who is nursing a sprained right ankle.

Karaban managed seven points in 35 minutes against the Bulldogs after sitting out the Huskies’ win at St. John’s on Saturday afternoon.

Hurley credited Karaban for playing through pain on Tuesday but stressed the need for the sophomore to heal quickly, explaining that Karaban’s value extends beyond when he has the ball in his hands.

“He’s our security blanket,” Hurley said. ” … It’s like having that extra coach on the court.”

Karaban is third on the team in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (5.6). He matched his career high with 26 points in UConn’s 80-67 win over Georgetown on Jan. 14 in Hartford, Conn.

Even with Karaban limited, the Huskies’ offense has hummed behind guard Cam Spencer, who has scored at least 20 points and made at least four 3-pointers in each of the last two games.

Spencer has flourished in his first season with the Huskies after stints at Rutgers and Loyola Maryland. The senior leads the defending national champions in 3-pointers (64) and 3-point percentage (.451).

“It’s just a perfect marriage,” said Hurley of Spencer, whose 15.5 scoring average ranks second on the team.

“This guy’s wired the way we’re wired. I’m just so happy that he’s able to experience college basketball like this — the bigness of it, the winning,” Hurley said. “He hasn’t had a chance to experience this, and he’s over-delivered in every possible way.”

Spencer orchestrated one of his finest performances as a Husky during last month’s victory over the Hoyas when he drilled 5 of 7 treys and scored 20 points to complement his season-high-tying seven rebounds.

Georgetown has lost each of its last five games since its first encounter with UConn. It enters Saturday on a seven-game skid bookended by losses to Seton Hall.

The Hoyas fell to the Pirates 76-70 on Wednesday in Newark, N.J., but showed improvement on defense.

Seton Hall’s scoring output was the first time Georgetown had surrendered fewer than 80 points since its 74-70 setback to the Pirates in Washington on Jan. 9. Wednesday’s game also marked the first time the Hoyas held their opponent below 50 percent shooting from the field since their last win, a 68-65 home triumph over DePaul on Jan. 6.

“I was really proud of our men,” Georgetown coach Ed Cooley said after Wednesday’s loss. “I thought we competed today. I was proud of how we responded to our last home game (a 91-57 loss to then-No. 9 Marquette). Again, it’s the Big East — no matter who you play, you’ve gotta be prepared.”

Supreme Cook and Dontrez Styles each logged 20 points for the Hoyas against Seton Hall. Jayden Epps, Georgetown’s leading scorer with 18.3 points per game, added 15.

Epps made just 3 of 13 3-pointers for the Hoyas, who hit 25 percent of their season-high 40 attempts from deep.

–Field Level Media

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