No. 5 UConn aims to remain perfect at Florida

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No. 5 UConn is off to a dominant start this season, winning each of its nine games by double figures with an average margin of 24.2 points.

The Huskies (9-0), who will get their first road test of the season Wednesday at Florida (6-3), haven’t played this well to start a campaign since 2013-14, the year the Shabazz Napier-led Huskies won the school’s latest national championship.

“The whole mindset of our program this year is that we’ve been contending the last couple of years, contending in the Big East, contending in tournaments,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “Now, we’re trying to go from contenders to champions.”

UConn has posted its last four wins over KenPom Top 50 opponents, with its latest victory a 74-64 decision against Oklahoma State on Dec. 1 as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Balance has helped fuel the strong start for the Huskies. Five players are averaging nine or more points for UConn, led by 6-foot-9 forward Adama Sanogo (18.7 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game). Through nine contests, UConn has had four different leading scorers and five different leading rebounders.

“We’re not going to be complacent,” said UConn senior point guard Tristen Newton, who is averaging 11.4 points and 4.2 assists. “A top-10 ranking isn’t what we want. We want to win games. There’s no point of being top 10 if you’re going to mess around and end up losing.

“We’re going to practice hard every day. We all want to win, and we have great depth, so I feel like we can carry it on.”

On defense, Connecticut is holding opponents to 58.7 points per game on 38.5 percent shooting from the floor.

The Gators take a two-game win streak into their matchup with the Huskies. Defense has helped spark the run. Florida held Stetson to 33.3 percent shooting in an 89-51 win over the Hatters on Sunday and has limited opponents to an average of 56.5 points and 33.9 percent shooting from the floor over its past two games.

“We can be a very good team if we guard more,” said Florida forward Alex Fudge, who had 11 points and eight rebounds while making his first start for the Gators against Stetson. “Tonight was the first night, but we’re going to keep it up, consistency. We’re going to bring it to the next game and the next game.”

The Gators’ offense has been led by center Colin Castleton (16.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.9 blocks per game), guard Will Richard (13.6 ppg, .586 from 3-point range) and guard Trey Bonham (10.2 ppg, 2.2 apg). Florida could be without starting point guard Kyle Lofton (9.6 ppg, 4.1 apg), who has sat out the past two games due to back spasms.

Florida is set to face a ranked opponent for the first time this season.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” first-year Gators coach Todd Golden said. “If we can find a way to get this thing done, it will be another way to build confidence for a team that is learning ourselves, is learning to figure out to be the best we can be.”

–Field Level Media

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