John F. Silver
It evened out against Villanova on Saturday.
The Huskies put together what have been their worst second half performance of the season as Villanova rallied from a seven-point second half deficit to win going away 70-61 before 15,000 plus at the XL Center in Hartford.
Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats with 25 points while Mouphtaou Yarou added 11 points and 16 rebounds for the Wildcats.
The Huskies were beaten in the second half in every way possible. Villanova dominated on the glass holding a 41-25 advantage as a one-time UConn lead vanished in an ugly second half. The Wildcats did it on the boards getting multiple looks on each possession during key 14-2 second half run and had 20 second chance points on 20 offensive rebounds.
That was only part of the story for the Huskies.
The Huskies’ strength is the dual-point guard lineup of guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier. Each had rough games.
Boatright didn’t score a point until the final minute of the game and finished with four. Boatright was 2 of 7 with five turnovers and one assist in 31 minutes.
Napier? He had two fouls in the first three minutes and came back to have six assists in the half. He never got going offensively and had two points on 1 of 8 shooting. He did have 10 assists.
Omar Calhoun led the Huskies with 16 points, but was only 3 of 8 from the field to go with 9 of 9 from the free-throw line.
Stopping UConn’s backcourt of Napier and Boatright was the key for the Wildcats.
“There two guards are the key and we did a good job on them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We let Omar Calhoun get going, but we put too much emphasis on Napier and Boatright. They are two of the better guards in the country, doing it on them is the key.”
The Huskies led 33-30 at the half, had Napier in the game for only nine minutes because of fouls, and shot 52.4 percent from the floor. Conventional wisdom was that Napier and Boatright explode. It never happened.
“We knew these guys were capable of going off,” Wright said. “They run good stuff for those guys…we defended a lot of different options. “
The Huskies took a 43-36 lead on a Niels Giffey tip-in with just under 15 minutes to go when the bottom fell out on the Huskies. The Wildcats went on a 14-2 run by hammering the glass and taking second chance points.
Arcidiacono started the Wildcats comeback with a 3-pointer and the Huskies went cold from the field.
Villanova took the lead on a layup by Tony Chennault at 12:05 for a 46-45 lead and never trailed again.
Villanova’s tenacious inside play set up several back-breaking second chance points. The big one was leading 57-54 and a pair of offensive rebounds led to a 3-pointer by James Bell.
“Those are tough, especially when you give up two of them,” Napier said. “Those guys played tougher than us and we didn’t play with the toughness we should have. If you don’t play tough, you lose games.
“It’s a kickout and guys are standing at 3-point line. It’s a tough one. We work so hard to get a rebound and they hit 3s, it’s kind of demoralizing.”
At 60-57, JayVaughn Pinskton hit a jumper and then a Boatright turnover turned into a layup by Yarou. with 2:23 left. A Bell 3-pointer from the right win gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead at 67-57 with 1:37 left.
“We got to come up with loose balls, we got to come up with those 50-50 balls,” Ollie said.
DeAndre Daniels scored 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting while Niels Giffey came off the bench for 11 points.
The Huskies fall to 17-7, 7-5 in the Big East. Villanova improves to 16-10, 7-6 in the Big East. UConn welcomes Cincinnati on Thursday.