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No. 5 UConn looks to shake off rust in clash vs. DePaul

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Reigning national champion UConn will come off a pronounced layoff on Tuesday evening when Big East rival DePaul visits Storrs, Conn.

The No. 5 Huskies likely appreciated the chance to regroup after a 69-65 home win against St. John’s on Dec. 23.

“I think we showed a little bit of fatigue,” Huskies coach Dan Hurley said then. “These guys have earned the … days off, and we’ll have some time to rest and work on some things and get back to looking like a much sharper team.”

UConn (11-2, 1-1) rallied past the Red Storm down the stretch to rebound from a 15-point loss at Seton Hall on Dec. 20 in the Huskies’ conference opener.

Playing without 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan, who remains sidelined with a right foot injury, the Huskies benefited from a career-best 16 points from Samson Johnson.

Guards Tristen Newton and Cam Spencer added 15 points apiece for UConn, but Johnson offered a steady hand throughout by finishing 7-for-10 from the floor.

“Coming into the game,” Johnson said, “I just wanted to make all the right plays, all the tough plays.”

Mission accomplished, in Hurley’s view.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a guy stepping in,” Hurley said. “He’s such a critical piece, and if he didn’t play like that, we didn’t have a chance because he played against one of the best big guys in the country (Joel Soriano of St. John’s), and he won the matchup.”

DePaul (3-9, 0-1) struggled mightily in an 84-48 home loss to Villanova in its conference opener on Dec. 23, shooting 30.4 percent from the field, including 16.7 percent from deep.

While the Blue Demons shot far better from the floor Saturday — 56.5 percent overall and 47.1 percent from 3-point range — they did so against Chicago State. DePaul isn’t downplaying the 70-58 victory over the visiting Cougars, but the Blue Demons realize the Huskies represent a considerably greater challenge.

“They’re talented, you know. They’re very well-coached. They were the national champions. They’ve got a chance at winning another national championship,” DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield said. “So we’re going to have to be really, really locked in in a very hostile environment and go out there and compete for 40 minutes and give ourselves a chance to win.”

Stubblefield stressed the importance of staying committed defensively and sharing the basketball — against UConn and beyond.

Those attributes benefited DePaul in the Chicago State game. Three starters finished in double figures, but the Blue Demons also received a boost from reserve guard K.T. Raimey, who contributed 15 points to go with five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

“I just stay locked in, so when coach tells me all the time, ‘Stay ready to shoot,’ that’s really my role around this team,” Raimey said. “I try to stick to it and play to the fullest I can and help my teammates.”

UConn swept the season series from DePaul in 2022-23, winning by 14 on the road and 29 at home.

–Field Level Media

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