Feb. 20, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - A 29-foot jumper by Connecticut's Shabazz Napier with .6 seconds left in overtime lifted the Huskies to a 73-70 victory over Villanova (11-16 overall, 4-11 BIG EAST) in a game played at the Wells Fargo Center here on Monday night. UConn improved to 17-10 overall, 7-8 in the BIG EAST.
"There is no choice for us than to say we're going to learn from this, we're going to get better and there will be a point where this is something we draw upon," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "There's no question, it's tough on our guys. They are battling and actually, in end of game situations we are doing some good things. In the end of regulation we get a stop and we score a basket. We made defensive mistakes and turnovers too.
"This is part of the process of an inexperienced team. It's painful but what it's what sports are all about."
As they did on Saturday night against Notre Dame, the Wildcats broke from the gate quickly. In this case they crafted an 26-8 lead fueled largely by the work of Dominic Cheek, who finished the night with a team-high 23 points.
But Jeremy Lamb (a game-high 32 points) led the Huskies back over the final 8:32 of the period. Connecticut reeled off a 22-4 run to close the half and the game was deadlocked at intermission.
Connecticut grabbed a 38-33 lead over the first 4:05 of the second half and it grew to 54-47 with 6:28 to play in regulation.
"Jay's team's always scrap and fight," noted UConn associate head coach George Blaney, who is filling in for head coach Jim Calhoun.
The `Cats went on an 11-4 surge over the next three minutes to draw even at 58 after a Cheek steal and basket. Junior Mouphtaou Yarou converted two free throws with 2:18 to go and the Wildcats stymied the Huskies at the defensive end and had the ball along their own baseline with 32 seconds left. But Cheek's inbound pass was deflected and stolen by Roscoe Smith and Alex Oriakhi's put-back of a Lamb missed shot allowed UConn to tie the game at 60.
"It was a simple mistake," stated Wright of the inbounds pass. "An experienced team overcomes that. An inexperienced one can't recover."
Villanova was unable to score in its final possession of regulation and the Wildcats found themselves in an extra period for the second time in 48 hours.
Lamb scored the first five points of the overtime to help stake Connecticut to a 65-62 lead with 2:52 to play in the period. The Wildcats battled uphill the rest of the way but took advantage of a missed Lamb free throw to tie the game at 70 on a drive and basket from freshman point guard Ty Johnson with 5.9 seconds left.
UConn pushed the ball up the court and Napier released a deep triple that swished through the net with less than a second left on the scoreboard clock.
"It's painful," said Wright. "We just have to learn from it."
Johnson added 14 points for the Wildcats while JayVaughn Pinkston contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Next up for the Wildcats is a date at Georgetown on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. (CBS/ESPN 950 Radio).