Adama Sanogo has UConn dreaming big: ‘We can do something special’

When UConn’s Adama Sanogo speaks, others listen.

With the Huskies leading Iona 39-37 at halftime of Friday’s NCAA tournament opener, Sanogo, who is 6-foot-9, 245 pounds and one of the most physically imposing big men in the country, shared a message with his colleagues earlier. taking the track in the second half.

“We looked at each other and said ‘we’ve got to figure it out because we’re not playing the way UConn is playing,'” Sanogo told FOX Sports college basketball reporter John Fanta. “We knew we had to do something positive that he could win us the game.”

The Huskies’ big man did just that, pouring in 22 second-half points and adding 10 boards after the break as UConn stepped things up and ran away with an impressive 87-63 win over Wales. Sanogo finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds, leading the Huskies to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

It had been a long drought for one of college basketball’s most successful programs. The Huskies have appeared in five Final Fours over the past 24 years and won all four of those years: 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014.

Dan Hurley was recruited to UConn in 2018 and has worked to return the program to national prominence, making three straight NCAA Tournament appearances after a four-year drought from 2017-2020.

Sanogo, who is in his junior season, is one of the veteran leaders on this year’s team, and has been around long enough to understand the importance of winning at a program like UConn. That made Friday’s first-round win over Iona that much more palatable.

“It feels great. People really care about this team and they want to see us do well,” Sanogo told Fanta. “Right after the game, to get [the monkey] on the back, it was good.”

[UConn keeps Big East looking strong in March Madness]

It certainly helps that the Huskies play at MVP Arena in Albany, New York, located less than 150 miles from the UConn campus. Many fans made the short trip to support the Huskies, which was evident during the team’s dominant performance in the second half.

“It felt like a home game for us,” Sanogo said. “That’s something we’re definitely going to need. It’s something that’s going to help us win.”

The Huskies’ next test will be against a talented Saint Mary’s team that won 27 games this season, coming off an impressive 63-51 opening-round win over VCU.

Sanogo knows that for the Huskies to get past Saint Mary’s and make a run in this year’s tournament, they will have to play like they did against Iona in the second half on Friday.

“We can definitely do something special in this tournament,” Sanogo said. “We have everything we need, and I think we have the best coaching staff in the country. But we have to maintain our identity.

“If we can play like we did, we’re going to be a problem for a lot of teams in this tournament.”

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