HOUSTON -- In the minutes leading up to tipoff Saturday night, Adama Sanogo is going to be focused on more than just keeping Miami's Norchad Omier off the backboard. The UConn center will be looking to quickly eat food and get fluids before the ball is tipped.
Sanogo and teammates Hassan Diarra and Samson Johnson all observe Ramadan and therefore abstain from eating or drinking from sunup to sundown.
"It's definitely hard because, like you say, it's my faith and this is something I didn't start doing this year," Sanogo said Thursday. "I've been doing this since I was in high school. I used to do it during AAU."
"It's something I've been doing since I was little," he added on Friday. "I just have to do it."
UConn's Final Four game against Miami on Saturday isn't scheduled to tip until 7:49 p.m CT, which is about 10 minutes after the sun sets. Sanogo told ESPN he plans to drink coconut water and eat fruit in the minutes between sundown and tipoff.
"Obviously I can't eat nothing heavy," he said.
Ramadan began on March 22, so Sanogo, Diarra and Johnson fasted prior to their regional semifinal and final games against Arkansas and Gonzaga, respectively. While Sanogo admitted he was "a little bit tired" against Gonzaga, he still managed to go for 18 points and eight rebounds against Arkansas and 10 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists against the Zags. Diarra and Johnson came off the bench in both games.
"I think I play better when I'm fasting," Sanogo added. "I feel a little bit lighter eating nothing all day so I'm able to run a bit faster."
UConn head coach Dan Hurley said the late start of the game should provide a noticeable difference for Sanogo's energy levels.
"For me as a coach, navigating it was more like panic," Hurley said. "And I don't know much about diet and nutrition and human performance. But we've got a great strength coach and athletic trainer that have been able to get up with him early and get some food in him. And then obviously the late tip time helps us more.
"It was a bigger challenge out west because we were playing so early, and it was like really in the middle of him probably being at his weakest in terms of those things. I think it's probably the tip time is best-case scenario for us."
Sanogo said he initially debated not fasting during the NCAA tournament, but he looked into Hakeem Olajuwon's fasting in the 1990s while still maintaining his consistent excellent level of play.
"That's one of the reasons I'm doing it," he said. "If he did it, why can't I do it? I was thinking about not doing it -- should I do it during the tournament or wait until after the tournament -- he's one of the reasons I did it."