No. 4 Villanova Knocks Off No. 1 Connecticut, 69-64
Feb. 13, 2006
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Villanova went inside in the first half and stayed outside in the second. Add some solid defense and an offensive boost from an unlikely source, and the Wildcats came up with a way to beat No. 1 Connecticut.
Allan Ray keyed the Wildcats' 7-for-9 effort from 3-point range in the second half and fourth-ranked Villanova beat the Huskies 69-64 Monday night, its first victory over a top-ranked team in nearly 11 years.
"It was a big test for us. UConn was a great team," said Ray, who had 19 of his 25 points in the second half. "A lot of teams didn't think we were going to win. It was just a great test for us to go out and see where we were at."
Ray had five 3-pointers in a 22-4 run that gave Villanova (20-2, 10-1 Big East) the lead for good in its ninth straight victory. The Wildcats, who forced the Huskies into 17 turnovers, also got a lift from their center in an offense that relies on four guards.
The four guards account for 79 percent of the team's points, but center Will Sheridan, who averages 4.5 points per game, matched his career high with 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help the Wildcats stand up to Connecticut's size advantage.
"We need to get our forwards involved. We've been working on it," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Will has been defending, making plays, but not scoring as much. Tonight he took it to another level in a big game against an outstanding team, which I think tells you a lot about Will Sheridan."
Sheridan, not known for his outside shot, hit two big jumpers from the corner in the second half.
"They made 3s, Sheridan hit some tough baselines. I don't know what adjustments you'd like us to make for Allan Ray's 28-footers," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.
Rudy Gay had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (22-2, 9-2), who had an 11-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 7-1 against ranked teams this season.
Connecticut had a chance to tie in the final seconds but Marcus Williams lost the ball for the Huskies' final turnover and Ray made two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to make it 69-64.
"There was supposed to be a pick but Rashad Anderson said Ray pushed him and we bumped and lost the ball," Williams said.
It seemed most of the 20,859 at the Wachovia Center, the largest crowd to watch a college basketball game in Pennsylvania history, stormed the court to celebrate the Wildcats' first win over a No. 1 team since Feb. 18, 1995, when they beat Connecticut.
"I think we beat them on a good night. They're great. They deserve to be No. 1," Wright said. "They answered everything we did, we answered what they did and that's what made a great game between two outstanding teams."
UConn opened the second half with a 13-0 run to go ahead 45-33. That's when Ray, a 36 percent from 3-point range entering the game, started his long-range barrage. The first 12 points of the big run were on his 3-pointers and Mike Nardi, who had missed the last two games with tonsillitis, scored his only points of the game on another 3.
The Wildcats were 2-for-10 in the first half on 3s, but they made five of their first six in the second half.
Kyle Lowry, who had 16 of his 18 points in the first half on a series of inside baskets against Connecticut's big frontline, which leads the nation in blocked shots, then scored on an offensive rebound and Villanova was ahead 50-47 with 11:35 to play.
After Williams scored on a drive, Ray hit the last of his 3s and Sheridan connected on a jumper from the corner and it was 55-49 with 9:20 to go.
Sheridan knows he isn't much of an outside threat.
"Everybody doubles our guards, why wouldn't you?" he asked. "They were kind of backing off a little bit. I just felt like I had good looks tonight. The guards were seeing me."
Connecticut, which missed four straight free throws over the final 5 minutes, got within 67-64 on a drive and short jumper by Williams around two missed drives by the Wildcats, who were trying to use up as much of the shot clock as possible.
"There's no one in the country that has guard play like them and they're a very difficult team to stop," Calhoun said. "Lowry was driving by anybody and everybody we had.
"They did a good job of putting so much ball pressure on us through traps and otherwise."
Randy Foye finished with 10 points for Villanova, which is 5-14 all-time against No. 1 teams. The Wildcats, who had 13 steals, had lost seven of their last eight against the Huskies.
Williams and Anderson each had 12 points for Connecticut, which had 11 turnovers in the first half, three off their season average for a game.
"They denied our passes and played the passing lanes well," Williams said. "They are a gritty team but we had a 10-point lead in the second half and missed free throws. That's got something to do with focus."
The Huskies, who had been 14-1 on the road as a No. 1 team, blocked eight shots, one off their average.
The teams meet in Hartford on Feb. 26.
"I was already marking down that game," Gay said. "Now, definitely."