If history does in fact repeat itself, No. 8 UConn will feel pretty good about its long-term goals for the season — provided it can pick up a win against Oklahoma State on Thursday in Storrs, Conn.
The Huskies (8-0) will bid for their ninth consecutive win to open the campaign on Thursday. The last UConn team to accomplish that feat — the 2013-14 squad — just so happened to be crowned the national champion when was all said and done.
While a potential run that extends past March is still a long way away, the Huskies already have added some hardware to the trophy case after posting a 71-53 win over Iowa State on Sunday to win the Phil Knight Invitational.
Donovan Clingan led the way with 15 points and 10 rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Tristen Newton added 13 points, while Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson Jr. each supplied 10.
Leading scorer Adama Sanogo was held to just four points on 1-of-5 shooting from the floor while dealing with foul trouble.
“Being able to give Adama a break is important to him and the team to go in and help as much as I could,” Clingan told the Hartford Courant. “I knew (I) was going to be playing behind Adama and just come in when he needed a break and come in and try to do what he’s doing to help the team win.”
The Cowboys (5-2) could be well equipped to handle the 7-foot-2 Clingan, though, after allowing just 16 points in the paint during their 78-53 victory over Prairie View A&M on Sunday.
Avery Anderson III paced four scorers in double figures with 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the floor. Moussa Cisse and Bryce Thompson supplied 13 points apiece, with Cisse also recording 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
Although the Huskies feature talented offensive weapons in the post such as Sanogo and Clingan, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton is confident in his interior defenders’ ability to make life difficult down low.
“This year we’re a little bit smaller in the backcourt, and so what we tell those guys now is contain a little bit more,” Boynton said. “We want to funnel them into Kalib (Boone), Moussa and Tyreek (Smith) — where those shots are difficult to make.
“I think for the most part, those guys are doing that.”
That trio is headlined by Cisse, who is averaging the fourth-most blocks in the nation (3.6).
As for the containment plan that Boynton has implemented on the perimeter, it’s been working so far. Opponents are shooting just 27.3 percent from beyond the arc, and the Cowboys have been contesting shots without fouling, surrendering just over 12 free throws per game.
Thursday marks just the third all-time meeting between UConn and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are 2-0 in the series, last winning 98-90 on Nov. 21, 2016.