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No. 20 UConn, Providence both hot entering regional rivalry game

No. 20 UConn is expected to welcome the return of Tyrese Martin for its Big East opener against Providence on Saturday in Hartford, Conn.

Whether Martin will be joined by Adama Sanogo remains in question, however. Sanogo has missed the Huskies' last three games with an abdominal injury, while Martin has sat out the last four games with an avulsion fracture of his left wrist.

Martin has made 43.8 percent of his 3-point attempts and is averaging 12.9 points per game. The latter ranks third on UConn (9-2), behind only R.J. Cole (16.0) and Sanogo (15.6).

Cole continued to pace the Huskies by scoring 15 points in a 74-64 victory over St. Bonaventure last Saturday.

"What we're going through right now, like our long-term prospects as a team, I think we are a formidable team this year," UConn coach Dan Hurley said. "We are a very strong team. Going through the injuries, having to play these last few games without key guys ... is building our depth and putting guys in an uncomfortable position to where they are growing right before our eyes."

Case in point: Jordan Hawkins. The freshman answered a disastrous 0-for-13 stretch from the floor spanning parts of the last two games before finding his rhythm in the second half against the Bonnies. He countered an 0-for-6 effort in the first half by making all three shots in the second -- including two 3-pointers -- to finish with 11 points.

"I was just so happy for him because he is wearing it right now," Hurley said of Hawkins. "He wants to be there right now, like the finished product."

While the Huskies dropped a few spots in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Friars finished third among teams also receiving votes.

Providence, which has wins over No. 25 Texas Tech and just-outside-the-poll Wisconsin, is off to a 10-1 record for just the second time in Ed Cooley's 11 seasons at the helm. The 2015-16 team won its next four games before losing two of its next three.

The current contingent recorded its second five-game winning streak of the season following a 68-53 victory over Central Connecticut State last Saturday.

Now that his team defeated one Connecticut representative, Cooley is fixated on the big dog of the state.

"All these games are quote-unquote rivalry games because they are in the league, yet this one may have a little bit more juice because of the location," Cooley said. "... It's hard man, we recruit against them -- it's regional recruitment. They've earned everything (by) winning national championships and having all the pros that they have had. They have a brand that we're gonna have to contend with in the recruiting battles and on the court."

A.J. Reeves collected 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to pace the Friars, who erupted for a season-high 44 first-half points to take a 19-point lead at intermission.

Nate Watson, who averages a team-best 15.3 points per game, was limited to just eight points versus the Blue Devils. Noah Horchler added 12 points and 10 rebounds to boost his season averages to 10.6 and 8.2, respectively.

Cooley said Thursday that guard Jared Bynum will be a game-time decision against the Huskies. Bynum has missed four straight games with an ankle injury.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 16, 2021

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