After long pause, UConn gets back to action against Seton Hall

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  • Dan Hurley
    American basketball player-coach

Both No. 24 Seton Hall and UConn should be at -- or close to -- full strength in terms of COVID-19 issues when the teams face one another in a Big East game Saturday on the Pirates' home court in Newark, N.J.

UConn (10-3, 1-1 Big East) is ready to return to action for the first time since beating Marquette 78-70 on Dec. 21. All players are expected to be available, although some could be on a minutes limit.

"We're just excited to get back on the court and play a game," Huskies coach Dan Hurley said. "A lot of teams have had to deal with similar situations and now it's our turn. We're happy to be able to play."

The Pirates (10-3, 1-2) lost to both Providence and Villanova last week with only eight scholarship players available. But rim protector Ike Obiagu returned from COVID pause to help Seton Hall beat host Butler on Tuesday, and 6-10 forward Tyrese Samuel likely will be available to play against the Huskies.

Obiagu had eight points and two blocked shots against the Bulldogs, but he also altered or discouraged numerous shots.

"You can see what he brings having a 7-foot-1 load down low," said Seton Hall associate head coach Grant Billmeier, who stood in for coach Kevin Willard at the Butler postgame podium. "You can be a little bit more aggressive on the perimeter knowing you have one of the best shot blockers in the country behind you."

As for the Huskies, they are still working through their COVID issues.

"It's not an ideal situation," Hurley said, per the Connecticut Post. "But, at least we've been able to get in here together. And, we've got a game on Saturday. That's obviously going to be challenging, considering the opponent and what we're dealing with."

Hurley noted that with some players testing positive for the virus, the team hasn't been able to hold as many full practices as usual.

"Players love to play games, and they love less practice time," he said. "So, victory for the players, bad for me."

Hurley said forward Adama Sanogo, who missed four games because of an abdominal injury, has been limited in practice because he injured his hamstring against Marquette -- he first game back from injury.

"And he still tweaks his hamstring, because he's not in game-shape because of the abdominal thing," Hurley said.

Sanogo, who planned to play for Seton Hall before committing to UConn, is averaging 14.6 points and 5.8 rebounds.

R.J. Cole leads the Huskies with 16.3 points and 4.7 assists. Look for the Pirates to put Myles Cale on him defensively.

"Myles Cale is our best defender and one of the elite defenders in college basketball," Billmeier said. "Myles always accepts the challenge."

--Field Level Media