With his No. 1-ranked team clinging to a 25-point lead with about six minutes left in a game it dominated from the start, UConn coach Dan Hurley called a timeout, gathered his players around and shouted at them, his face red as his voice rose above the din of more than 13,000 spectators.
Hurly knows that a lopsided outing like this 89-64 victory at Georgetown on Saturday might not really have been hanging in the balance at that moment. He also knows – and wanted to make sure his team does, too – that with bigger stakes on the horizon, such as a bid for a second national title in a row, imparting lessons now can pay dividends later.
Alex Karaban scored 25 points, Stephon Castle added 17 and the Huskies never were challenged on the way to leading the Hoyas by as many as 26 in the first half while stretching their winning streak to 12 games. It was UConn’s largest win against Georgetown in the schools’ 74 meetings.
And yet there was Hurley, bothered by three players jogging back on defense.
“I was absolutely just beside myself,” he said later.
“We had a bunch of moments of weakness there in the second half. If you don’t keep your foot on the gas … (in March), your season ends and you lose and you go home and you’re disappointed with how it ends,” Hurley said. “Those are habits and behaviors that have to be entrenched.”
Karaban, who had 17 in the first half and shot 10 for 14 overall to finish one point shy of his college scoring high, smiled when asked about the brief outburst.
“He was just mad that we weren’t playing to (the) UConn standard. … We looked soft on the defensive end. We weren’t sharp on the offensive end,” Karaban said. “That makes him him. That’s why he’s the best coach.”
UConn (22-2, 12-1 Big East) put together runs of 9-0 and 11-0 before the game was 10 minutes old. It was 52-28 at halftime and UConn’s lead never fell below 20 in the second half, helped in part by a 48-28 edge in scoring in the paint.
Georgetown (8-15, 1-11) was held under 40% shooting for the game.
Dontrez Styles scored 23 points for the Hoyas, who have lost eight games in a row under first-year coach Ed Cooley. When he wasn’t actually coaching or trying to convince an official of a missed call, Cooley sarcastically smiled or laughed with his arms crossed or hands on his hips.
“We didn’t show up. I can’t believe we were so listless, lifeless, not physical, not connected, not verbal,” Cooley said.
Leading scorer Jayden Epps was limited to four points, 14.3 below his average.
“The point guard, the head coach and the best player can never have a bad day, and all three of us today were god-awful. God-awful,” Cooley told reporters. “I should have just stayed in bed and had you coach.”
After Castle was left completely unguarded in the paint for a dunk, making it 30-12 midway through the opening half, some boos cascaded from the stands – and Cooley called his second timeout in a span of 39 seconds.
UConn shot 61.6% for the game and wound up with 26 assists on 33 field goals.
“We’re not vulnerable in a lot of spots right now,” Hurley said.
UConn: Off to its best season start since going 24-1 in 2008-09 and next week should mark its fifth in a row at No. 1 in the AP Top 25. The Huskies’ 12-game Big East winning streak is the league’s longest since Villanova put together one that long in 2015.
Georgetown: What was expected to be a slow turnaround under Cooley is precisely that so far.
UConn: At DePaul on Wednesday to face the only team below Georgetown in the Big East standings. DePaul is 0-12 in the league and 3-20 overall.
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