STORRS, Conn. — The much anticipated return of Jordan Hawkins went perfectly according to plan on Friday night as his career-high scoring display led the No. 25-ranked UConn men’s basketball team to their fourth win of the season, 86-50 over UNC Wilmington.
After a turnover on the first possession of the game, Hawkins — out for the last two games after hitting his head on the court 10 minutes into the season-opener — drew a charge on the other end. Five minutes in, Tristen Newton, coming off a triple-double against Buffalo, drove toward the paint and found the sophomore shooter wide open in the corner. Hawkins, nothing but net, recorded his first three points of the season.
Hawkins played 25 minutes and finished with 20 points, besting his previous career-high of 16 which came in a double-overtime game against Auburn in last year’s Battle 4 Atlantis. He made 7 of 13 from the field and 5 of 8 from deep.
For the second straight game it took the Huskies a bit to get the ball through the hoop (3 of 11 from the field through the first 9:39). Adama Sanogo, however, dominated in the post, showing off his new-and-improved moves down low to score 10 of UConn’s first 16 points. Sanogo teamed up with Nahiem Alleyne to make five consecutive shots — Alleyne banked-in a 3-pointer and slammed one down on the next possession, assisted by Sanogo, to give UConn a 23-20 lead around the six-minute mark.
Andre Jackson Jr., making his season debut after a broken pinky suffered in mid-October, came off the bench about eight minutes into the game. The junior co-captain and fan favorite scored just once on two attempts to finish with two points, five assists, three rebounds, a pair of blocks and a steal in 20 minutes.
With about a minute to go in the opening half, Jackson flew over to block a corner 3-pointer from Shykeim Phillips. In transition Joey Calcaterra found Hawkins for 3 in a sequence that brought the quiet Gampel Pavilion crowd to its feet. An Alex Karaban corner 3 at the halftime buzzer then got the crowd really jumping and earned a chest bump from Jackson, who assisted, before the happy Huskies trotted into the locker room up 40-28.
Only four Huskies — Sanogo, Hawkins, Alleyne and Karaban — scored in the first half as UConn opened the game shooting 56.5% from the field and collectively made 5 of 10 from deep.
Hawkins continued his stellar return into the second half. One possession after hitting a corner 3-pointer, the high-flying guard caught Jackson’s feed on a fast break and slammed it home with authority. Upon landing, Hawkins let out a roar of pure, pent-up emotion.
UConn rolled from there. Stifling defense led by Jackson’s consistent tenacity guarding the ball helped the Huskies to their largest lead of 41 with a minute to go. Jackson had the crowd chanting his name 13 minutes into the second half as he fought for a loose ball with the game already decided.
Sanogo finished with a team-high 24 points (8-of-12 shooting), while Karaban added 12. Newton, Alleyne and Calcaterra had eight, eight and six, respectively.
Collectively, UConn shot 53.8% from the field and 10 of 22 from deep.
The Huskies, 4-0, return to the XL Center on Sunday for a 5 p.m. matchup with Delaware State.