Feb. 16, 2013
HARTFORD, Conn. - The Villanova Wildcats clamped down on the potent Connecticut backcourt and rode a second half scoring burst to a 70-61 victory over the Huskies here on Saturday at the XL Center. The win lifts VU's record to 16-10 overall, 7-6 in the BIG EAST while UConn drops to 17-7 overall, 7-5 in conference action.
Freshman Ryan Arcidiacono scored 25 points for the Wildcats while senior Mouphtaou Yarou matched a career-high with 16 rebounds. Junior James Bell contributed 11 second half points, including three 3-point field goals.
Omar Calhoun topped the Huskies with 16 points. UConn standout guards Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier, however, were limited to a combined six points (3-of-15 from the field).
"This was a very good win for us because it came against a very good basketball team on the road," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "Their two guards, Napier and Boatright are a key to making them go, and I thought we did a really good job on them. We let Omar Calhoun get it going a little bit but I think it was we put too much emphasis on Napier and Boatright.
"Those two guards are two of the best in the country. Doing a good job on them was a key for us."
One huge element in Villanova's victory was its rebounding. The Wildcats collected 41 boards to 25 for the Huskies. Of those 41 caroms, 20 came at the offensive end, often keeping possessions alive. It allowed VU to attempt 62 field goals to just 46 for the Huskies.
Connecticut gained the early edge, scoring six of the game's first eight points. DeAndre Daniels tallied four of those. But Villanova kept the Huskies scoreless for the better part of five minutes midway through the period and got a pair of 3-pointers from Arcidiacono to build an 11-6 lead with 11:59 remaining in the first half.
The Huskies came out of the drought, though, to pull even with Villanova at 13 after Calhoun drained a pair of free throws as the game approached the eight minute mark of the first period. Connecticut then pulled out to a 16-14 lead one minute later as Napier, who had been forced to the sidelines with a pair of early fouls, returned to the floor and made an impact with three assists.
Leon Tolksdorf came off the Connecticut bench to drain 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Huskies a 22-16 advantage at the 6:25 mark. The Huskies held the lead the rest of the way in the period and took a 33-30 margin into the locker room at the half.
The Wildcats connected on 9-of-28 (.321) of its first half field goal attempts while UConn was 11-of-21 (.524) despite the fact Napier was limited to nine first half minutes. Arcidiacono's 17 points led the Wildcats while Daniels nine topped the Huskies. But neither Napier or Boatright had scored for UConn, which gave the Wildcat coaching staff pause.
"As a staff we looked at the first half stats and saw that (Napier and Boatright) had not scored and we were still down three, we were like, `whoa', this might not be a good situation," noted Wright. "We defended a lot of different options well today and that's something we have to build off of moving forward."
VU owned an 18-12 advantage on the backboards in the first period, with 10 of those collected by Mouphtaou Yarou.
"Mouph and our forwards were outstanding today," said Wright. "Both he and JayVaughn did a great job of keeping possessions alive for us by getting the rebounding and kicking out to a guard."
Connecticut built a 43-36 lead midway through the period before Villanova ran off a 14-2 spurt that was highlighted by an Arcidiacono lob that led to a James Bell dunk. The Wildcats were in front 50-45 at the 9:50 mark of the second half.
The Wildcats had an answer each time the Huskies got close. Then VU used a 10-0 run over the final minutes to put away what became a 70-61 triumph. In all, the Wildcats outscored UConn 34-18 after falling behind by seven in the second half.
Pinkston added 14 points and nine rebounds as he returned to the starting lineup for the first time since November.
The Wildcats sank 9-of-21 (.429) from beyond the 3-point arc and improved to 13-0 in 2012-13 when making six or more threes in a game.
Villanova returns to the Pavilion on Monday evening to host Rutgers at 9 p.m. (ESPNU/Sportsradio 610 WIP).