Former UConn star James Bouknight of the Charlotte Hornets was tossed from his courtside side by a game official in the second half Saturday as the No. 24 Huskies held off Xavier 72-61.
Bouknight, who played two seasons for Connecticut and is in his NBA rookie season, was sitting in the front row opposite the Xavier bench when he was asked to leave.
Bouknight then moved over to the UConn student section.
R.J. Cole and Tyler Polley each scored 16 points for UConn (19-7, 10-5 Big East), which has won four of its last five games. Adama Sanogo had 15 points and nine rebounds.
Xavier (17-9, 7-8), which has lost four of five, was led by Adam Kunkel’s 15 points. Zach Freemantle added 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Playing before a raucous, sold-out crowd for the second straight game, the Huskies hit 52% of their shots and took a 17-point lead at halftime.
That UConn advantage unraveled quickly at the start of the second half as the Huskies struggled with turnovers under some heavy pressure. UConn turned the ball over 10 times in the opening seven minutes of the second half, watching Xavier pull within 49-43.
Xavier had scored 10 straight points before Cole’s 3-pointer with 12 minutes to play ended the spurt. The Musketeers eventually got within four before Cole scored on a pair of drives to the basket that extended his team’s edge back to 10 with just under two minutes to go.
UConn is 7-0 this season in Gampel Pavilion, its on-campus arena.
Xavier won the first meeting between the teams 74-68 just nine days earlier. In that game, the Musketeers had a 35-31 edge in rebounding.
The Huskies were much better in that category in the rematch, pulling down 42 rebounds to Xavier’s 26. Senior Tyrese Martin led UConn with 11 boards.
UConn missed its first five shots in the game and went scoreless for over thee minutes. The Huskies used an 18-5 run to take a 44-27 lead at the break.
With three wins since Sunday, UConn is likely to move up a few spots from its current perch.
Xavier: Guard Nate Johnson, the Musketeers’ fourth-leading scorer, missed the game with a knee injury.
UConn: Forward Akok Akok missed his sixth straight game with a foot injury, though the junior did go through warmups with his teammates Saturday.
Xavier: Plays at No. 8 Providence on Wednesday.
UConn: Hosts No. 10 Villanova on Tuesday in Hartford.