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NCAAB: UConn, Auburn meet in Top 25 tussle at Paradise tourney

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No. 22 UConn will leave the Nutmeg State for the first time this season on Wednesday when they face No. 19 Auburn as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament at Paradise Island, Bahamas.

The Huskies (4-0) have flourished whether in Hartford or Storrs, posting lopsided victories by margins of 51, 35, 53 and 24 points.

The Tigers (3-0) followed up convincing wins over Morehead State and Louisiana-Monroe with a 58-52 victory at South Florida on Friday.

Tyrese Martin collected 15 points and 11 rebounds on Saturday as UConn overcame a sluggish start to cruise to an 87-63 romp over Binghamton.

“Not to look ahead of games, but I feel like a lot of players (Saturday) had the Bahamas in the back of their heads and just looking forward to that trip,” said Martin, who also had four assists and three steals.

Adama Sanogo, who averages a team-best 15.8 points per game, finished with 12 versus the Bearcats.

Coach Dan Hurley, however, was less than impressed with Sanogo on Saturday — as well as a few other starters.

“A couple of our starters, Isaiah (Whaley), because he is hurt, and Adama hasn’t been locked in the last two games,” Hurley said. “… R.J. (Cole) is an All-Big East-level performer. … We need him to be better than that.”

Although Hurley said he wasn’t interested in altering his starting lineup, the amount of playing time each player receives could be on a sliding scale.

“The better you play, the more minutes you are going to get,” Hurley said. “If you are ineffective, killing us defensively or not giving us anything on the offensive end, the minutes will be distributed accordingly.”

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl likely wasn’t a fan of what he saw from his team in its last game, either.

The Tigers made just 34.4 percent of their shots — including 19.2 percent from 3-point range — and had more turnovers (14) than assists (12) against the Bulls. Despite those numbers, Auburn overcame a 15-point deficit behind a strong performance from Georgia transfer K.D. Johnson.

“K.D. is important to us,” Pearl said of Johnson, who finished with 15 points. “K.D. has got the ability to do things against the best players on our schedule. He’s got that level, and we needed some of that (against South Florida). I want more and more from him as the season goes on. He’s a dangerous man out there.”

Pearl needs his team to be more dangerous in the first half, however. The Tigers have trailed at intermission in two of their three games this season.

“Bruce Pearl just came out and told us we need to be more physical and just execute down the stretch,” Johnson said of the halftime speech on Friday. “… He just wanted us to get through it and play through it and get tougher.”

Jabari Smith is averaging 13.3 points to go along with team-leading 9.0 rebounds per game and 2.3 steals.

The winner of Wednesday’s contest will face the victor of Michigan State and Loyola. In turn, the loser on Wednesday will tangle with the loser of the Spartans-Ramblers clash.

–Field Level Media

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