UConn’s Final Four Funk: Health Issues Concern Huskies Ahead Of Huge Night In Houston

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HOUSTON – Sometimes the best game plan in sports and in life is simple: eat well and get enough sleep.

That could be easier said than done for the No. 4 seed Connecticut Huskies (29-8), who play No. 5 seed Miami (29-7) in the Final Four Saturday (8:49 p.m., CBS) in NRG Stadium. No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic (35-3) and No. 5 San Diego State (31-6) open the national semifinals at 6:09 p.m.

UConn top players Jordan Hawkins and Adama Sanogo each are expected to have stomach issues on the day of the most important game of their lives.

Hawkins, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard averaging 16.3 points a game, missed practice Friday with a stomach bug that was not COVID related, the school said in a statement. He was tossin’ and turnin’ in more ways than one.

Sanogo, a 6-9 junior forward averaging 17.1 points and 7.5 rebounds, has been fasting from dawn until sunset since March 22 as a Muslim in observance of the Ramadan holy month.

The late tip-off will likely help both.

“He started to not feel well last night,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said of Hawkins Friday at a press conference. “For him to miss today obviously tells you why he’s not in a great way.”

Concern If Hawkins’ Bug Has Spread To UConn Teammates

And there is concern that his bug could have or will spread to teammates.

“We obviously isolated him. You hope that we contained it in time,” Hurley said. “We moved him out, moved his roommate out, and obviously kept him away from the team. Hopefully, it just doesn’t continue to spread, and hopefully Jordan’s good to go, or at least give us something.”

Hawkins has been on the button from 3-point range throughout the NCAA Tournament, hitting 16 of 31 for 51 percent.

“We’ve got like three doctors on this trip with us,” Hurley said. “So you hope that we could navigate it.”

Sanogo has also been on fire in the NCAA Tournament as UConn churned through with ease, beating Iona, 87-63, Saint Mary’s, 70-55, Arkansas, 88-65, and even 3 seed Gonzaga, 82-54. Sanogo averaged 20 points with 9.8 rebounds in those games at times while fasting.

Connecticut Huskies forward Adama Sanogo (21) goes to the hoop against Marquette this season. (Photo by Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

But Sanogo has been fasting for most of his life during Ramadan, which ends on April 20.

“It happens to be during the Tournament, so I guess I have to do it,” he said. “This is something that I’ve been doing since I was little.”

Sanogo is a junior from Bamako, Mali, in West Africa.

“We’ve got a great strength coach (Gavin Roberts) and athletic training staff that have been able to get up with him early and get some food in him,” Hurley said. “And then obviously, the late tip helps us more. It was a bigger challenge out west because we were playing so early, and it was really in the middle of him probably being at his weakest. The tip time is best-case scenario for us.”

Sophomore forward Samson Johnson of Lome, Togo, in West Africa, and junior guard Hassan Diarra of Queens, New York, are also Muslim and have been fasting for Ramadan. Neither play significant minutes, though.

“It affects how you think about substitutions a little bit with trying to maybe not give Adama as long a run,” Hurley said.

Hawkins is not as used to dealing with a different diet for his stomach bug.

NCAA Tournament Could Make Jordan Hawkins Recover Fast

“The doctors are just trying to speed him up and make him feel better,” freshman forward Alex Karaban said. “We need him out there because he’s one of the main reasons why we’re here. I don’t think he wants to miss this moment.”

Senior 6-3 guard Joey Calcaterra would likely replace Hawkins in the lineup if he is unable to play or has to be subbed often. Calcaterra is averaging 5.8 points in 14 minutes a game. A 3-point ace, he has hit 47 of 107 for 43 percent.

“I always feel good about whoever we put on the court,” he said. “But we have a great training staff, and they will be with him all day and get him ready to go. He’s not going to miss out on an opportunity like this.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at www.acadianhouse.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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