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Takeaways from UConn Men’s Basketball wins over Butler

It’s never easy to beat a team twice, but UConn men’s basketball just did it. The Huskies comfortably picked up a pair of wins, beating Butler 76-59 on Tuesday at XL Center before beating the Bulldogs 75-56 on Thursday night.

While the two games had two very different energies, it was heartening to see the Huskies take care of business under the unusual circumstances of playing the same team twice in three days.

Two victories, obtained in different ways

On Tuesday, UConn wasted no time getting past the Bulldogs and using their size and skill advantage to build a lead and never look back. While Butler is one of the lesser teams in the Big East, it was good to see the Huskies dominate from start to finish.

Thursday night was a different story. UConn started off a bit flat, and Butler clearly took the time after Tuesday’s game to review the tape and make some adjustments. While the Huskies struggled to score for most of the first half, shooting just under 30 percent from the floor, solid play from Adama Sanogo and Isaiah Whaley at both ends kept the close things, with UConn down just four at halftime.

Then, thanks to an absolutely nuclear halftime from Tyrese Martin, the Huskies came to life, regained the lead and pulled away to make it a relatively comfortable win. It’s hard to rate that first half of Thursday’s game – UConn mostly got some good shots and they just didn’t go in – but it was good to see Dan Hurley and the team adjust and come out stronger in the second half to avoid a bad loss on the road.

Another message of appreciation from Adama Sanogo

Sanogo has been impressive all season but he is certainly having the best streak of his young career so far. The second missed a fourth straight double-double on Thursday with a game-high 15 points and nine rebounds, but torched the Bulldogs for 13 points and 15 rebounds on Tuesday. He also smashed seven shots from Butler over the past two games.

We’ve seen how high Sanogo’s potential is with his performances against Auburn and St. John’s this season. But in those last four games, Sanogo has developed into a reliable and dominant big man who is rightly becoming the centerpiece of this UConn team. His growth on the defensive improves an already strong unit and gives Dan Hurley another sniper blocker alongside Whaley and Akok Akok.

Tyrese Martin comes out of his funk

Martin didn’t really look like himself since the Huskies returned from his COVID-19 break. He had flashes of solid play, including big hits against Seton Hall and St. John’s, but didn’t always bring the physicality to either side he’s usually known for. For 60 of the Huskies’ 80 minutes against Butler this week, that generally held true — until Tuesday’s game and Thursday’s first half, Martin had a total of five points. That changed in a hurry in the second half on Thursday night, as Martin scored 25 second-half points to almost single-handedly lead UConn to victory. In the final 20 minutes, Butler narrowly beat Martin, 28-25.

With the emergence of Sanogo and the shooting ability of RJ Cole, Martin doesn’t need to score 20 points per game for this team to win. But if he can be a consistent goalscorer like he was at the start of the season and towards the end of last year, that should open the door for the rest of the squad. Outside of Cole and Jalen Gaffney, Martin is one of the only other players who can consistently create his own shot, and Martin’s post-up play makes him a nightmare to defend for teams with small backcourts. Add to that his physique and elite rebounding ability, and a scorching Martin could be the difference maker this team needs to make a deep run in March.