UConn uses huge second half to earn 87-63 win over Rick Pitino, Iona

Iona gave UConn her best shot, but UConn’s best shot was better.

Iona, the 13th seed in the Western Region under Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, had an upset in her mind when she took a 39-37 locker room lead at mid -time in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday in Albany.

But the second half was a whole different story.

UConn, the No. 4 seed, stormed the gates with a 17-4 run in the first five minutes of the second half, turning that halftime deficit into a double-digit advantage . That push allowed UConn to retire in a convincing 87-63 victory. In total, UConn outclassed Iona in the second half by a 50-24 margin.

It was 20 minutes of basketball by a team that looks like it could make a deep run in the tournament.

That huge effort from UConn in the second half came after the Iona guards largely controlled play in the first half. As the game progressed, UConn’s talent and depth took over.

Iona simply had no way to stop Adama Sanogo, UConn’s murderous big man. Sanogo posted a double-double, leading all scorers with 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting to go with 13 rebounds. Of the 28 points he scored, 22 of them came in the second half. And when Sanogo was off the pitch, Donovan Clingan was also able to produce at a high rate. Clingan, the 7-foot-2 rookie, had 10 points and nine rebounds in just 18 minutes off the bench.

The Huskies guards didn’t have their most effective shooting performance, but Jordan Hawkins and Andre Jackson Jr. combined for 23 points while making five 3-point totals. Nahiem Alleyne and Joey Calcaterra also hit big shots off the bench, combining for 14 of 4 of 6 points from beyond the arc.

With the win, the Huskies will move on and face fifth-seeded Saint Mary’s on Sunday in the Round of 16.

UConn big man Adama Sanogo (21) scored 28 points and had 13 rebounds in a first-round victory over Iona at the NCAA Tournament on March 17, 2023 in Albany, New York.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

UConn big man Adama Sanogo (21) scored 28 points and had 13 rebounds in a first-round victory over Iona at the NCAA Tournament on March 17, 2023 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

What’s next for Iona coach Rick Pitino?

Pitino, 70, spent three seasons at Iona after his tumultuous layoff at Louisville and a stint coaching overseas. With Friday’s loss, Pitino is 64-22 with two NCAA tournament appearances in three seasons at Iona. But now it looks like he’s going to move on to another job.

Pitino’s name continually surfaced in connection with the opening in St. John’s. Pitino is from New York and could move from New Rochelle (where Iona is) to Queens if he lands in St. John’s. St. John’s fired Mike Anderson last week after four seasons, a move that opened the door for Pitino to return to the Big East after decades out of the league.

After Friday’s game, Pitino said he didn’t know if he coached his last game at Iona.

“I really don’t have an answer to be honest. I have no idea. I focused everything on this game trying to develop a plan to beat Connecticut,” Pitino said. “I really have no idea what the future may bring.”

Pitino made long stints at Kentucky and Louisville and also coached the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, but hasn’t coached in the Big East since he was at Providence in 1986 and 1987.

During his post-game media availability, Pitino mentioned St. John’s name and noted that he had not been on the school campus since 1987, when coaching Providence.

“I really haven’t thought about it at all. I think when you start thinking about the future, you always fail, and we put a lot of effort into this game. I don’t know if it’s good for me another job I don’t know I know you all refer to St. John’s but I’ve never seen St. John’s I can’t remember too much to tell you the truth You don’t Don’t buy houses without looking at the garage, the floor and the kitchen. You’re not just buying a house, are you?” says Pitino.

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