Adama Sanogo makes UConn dream big: “We can do something special”

When UConn’s Adama Sanogo speaks, others listen.

As the Huskies trailed Iona 39-37 at halftime in Friday’s NCAA Tournament opener, Sanogo, who is 6-foot-9, 245 pounds and one of the most physically imposing big men in the nation , shared a message with his teammates before taking the court in the second half.

“We looked at each other and said ‘we have to understand this because we don’t play the way UConn plays,'” Sanogo told FOX Sports college basketball reporter John Fanta. “We knew we had to do something positive that could win us the game.”

That’s exactly what the Huskies big man did, delivering 22 points in the second half and adding 10 boards after the break as UConn kicked into high gear and ran away with an impressive 87-63 victory over the Gales. . 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 in the past 24 years and have won it all in four of those years: 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014.

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

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

“It’s great. People care so much about this team and they want to see us do good,” Sanogo told Fanta. “Right after the game, getting rid of (the monkey) our backs was good.”

(UConn keeps Big East in shape 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 became evident during the team’s dominating performance in the second half.

“It was like a home game for us,” Sanogo said. “It’s something we will definitely need. It’s something that will help us win.”

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

Sanogo knows that for the Huskies to get past Saint Mary’s and get into this year’s tournament, they’ll 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 stick to 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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