MEN’S BASKETBALL: Hawkins’ 23 Helps Creighton In Upset of No. 17 UConn

HARTFORD, CT.–(CU Athletics Feb. 1)–Ryan Hawkins scored 23 points and Creighton survived an injury to center Ryan Kalkbrenner to post a 59-55 win at No. 17 UConn on Tuesday, Feb. 1 in Hartford, Conn.

Creighton’s third top-25 win of the season improved the Bluejays to 13-7 overall and 5-4 in BIG EAST play, snapping a two-game losing streak. The Huskies dropped to 15-5 on the year and are 6-3 in league action.

Creighton forced a shot clock violation on the opening possession of the game and jumped out to an early 19-11 lead, paced by eight points from Hawkins and five rebounds by Alex O’Connell. Isaiah Whaley had 11 points in the first 13 minutes on 5-of-6 shooting, while the rest of the UConn team was 1-for-19 at that point. Creighton took a 29-17 lead on two free throws by Hawkins with 1:07 left before UConn answered on a traditional three-point play that Tyrese Martin converted with 54.9 to play, which was also CU’s first foul of the game. Hawkins would get a friendly bounce off the back rim on a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer as the Jays took a 32-22 lead into the locker room.

Hawkins led all players with 13 points in the first half, adding six rebounds. O’Connell added seven rebounds and Kalkbrenner added six boards before the break as the Jays owned the glass to the tune of 27-16. The Bluejays shot 40 percent for the half and held UConn to 28.6 percent shooting. Whaley had 11 points in the first half.

O’Connell scored his first points of the game to give CU another 12-point lead (34-22) before six quick points form UConn. Hawkins then banked in a three-pointer before Whaley answered, and a short time later Kalkbrenner was helped off the floor clutching his ankle with 15:07 to play. UConn took its first lead since 2-0 on a jump hook from Adama Sanogo to make it 41-39 with 10:08 remaining.

The Bluejays withstood the partisan crowd with poise from its seniors. A steal and breakaway dunk by O’Connell put CU in front 48-46 and Hawkins followed with a hoop from the paint to give CU a 50-46 lead with just over five minutes to play.

The Bluejays clung to a three-point lead until a free throw by Trey Alexander with 41.2 left gave CU a 54-49 lead. Four seconds later Tyrese Martin made a foul shot for UConn to trim CU’s lead back to three, but Alexander sank two with 24.3 left to push the Bluejay lead to 55-50. R.J. Cole quickly brought the ball upcourt and hit a driving lay-up with 18.8 left to make it 55-52. The Bluejays beat the press for an O’Connell slam with 12.1 left before UConn’s Andrew Jackson drained a triple with 5.2 left to make it a two-point game. CU iced it on two free throws by Alexander with 2.5 left for the final margin.

Hawkins made 8-of-12 shots and 4-of-5 triples to score 23 points, adding a game-high 11 rebounds. Alexander had 11 points in 23 minutes off the bench, all in the second half. CU shot 39.3 percent for the game and made 7-of-17 three-pointers. The Bluejays were also 8-for-9 at the line, as well.

UConn was led by 20 points from Whaley, including a career-high four three-pointers. Cole notched 13 points and nine rebounds. The Huskies couldn’t take advantage of Kalkbrenner’s absence as Sanogo was limited to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Creighton will stay on the road until its next game on Friday at Seton Hall, which tips at 6 p.m. Central and will be nationally televised on FS1.