Adama Sanogo, UConn ship Pitino, Iona packing in NCAA Tournament

Adama Sanogo scored 10 of his 28 factors within the first 5 minutes of the second half as fourth-seeded UConn took management and beat Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels 87-63 Friday within the first spherical of the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies (26-8) superior to play fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s on Sunday within the West Region after dropping within the first spherical below coach Dan Hurley the final two seasons.

Iona (27-8) had its 14-game successful streak snapped because the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion did not have the depth to maintain up with one of many Big East’s finest for 40 minutes.

Walter Clayton Jr. led the Gaels with 14 factors.

Now the query is: What’s subsequent for the Gaels’ Hall of Fame coach?

Pitino was teaching in his twenty fourth NCAA Tournament and possibly his final with Iona. The 70-year-old appears to be in line for one more high-profile job, with St. John’s because the obvious front-runner to land the two-time nationwide champion.

UConn trailed by a degree at half, however got here out of the break clicking. A four-point play by Jordan Hawkins instantly gave the Huskies the lead after which Sanogo went to work inside.

The 245-pound junior had a dunk, a hook, a few layups and two free throws, scoring of 10 of the Huskies’ subsequent 13 factors as they grabbed a 54-43 lead.

The Gaels by no means actually threatened once more. Sanogo’s turnaround jumper from the baseline with 6:49 left made it 71-57 and the Huskies cruised into the second spherical for the primary time since 2016.

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Hawkins added 13 factors, all within the second half, and Sanogo capped his 13-for-17 taking pictures efficiency with a long-range jumper to beat the shot clock with 3:05 left to up the result in 21. He additionally had 13 rebounds.

Pitino got here in with a 54-20 NCAA report, however with out a event victory since 2017, his final season at Louisville earlier than he was fired amid the second NCAA scandal of his tenure.

Pitino was exonerated when the ultimate ruling was handed down from that investigation simply earlier than the beginning of this season, resulting in hypothesis that larger faculties would come calling when Iona’s season ended.

For a half, it regarded like that is likely to be at the very least one other few days.

The tempo was brisk and the play was sharp from the beginning, a first-round matchup that felt a bit of like a regional last.

Pitino was dapper and energetic on the sideline in his black swimsuit and silver tie. And the Gaels have been fearless within the first half.

They pressured ballhandlers and performed at a tempo that needed to really feel acquainted to Louisville and Kentucky followers who rooted for Pitino’s finest groups.

Berrick JeanLouis made his first two 3-point makes an attempt and scored 11 within the first half for the Gaels.

Neither staff led by greater than 4 within the first 20 minutes and Iona’s 6-foot-3 Daniss Jenkins appeared to ship a message within the last minute when he got here swooping in for an emphatic block on the 7-2 Donovan Clingan to maintain the Gaels in entrance, 39-37 on the break.

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UConn, nevertheless, had the ultimate response.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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