Feb. 15, 2013
HARTFORD, Conn. - Six games remain on the regular season schedule for the Villanova Wildcats (15-10 overall, 6-6 BIG EAST) and the BIG EAST Tournament looms beyond that. In racing, this is called the stretch drive and Villanova head coach Jay Wright isn't about to discount the significance of this period.
But he also believes it is of paramount importance that his young team pour its energy into the task in front of it, which in this case is the University of Connecticut Huskies (17-6 overall, 7-4 BIG EAST). On Wednesday night, UConn upended No. 6 Syracuse 66-58 at the XL Center here.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, hope to rebound from a 68-50 loss at Cincinnati on Tuesday night. The two teams square off at noon Saturday here on ESPN.
"We were very disappointed in our effort at Cincinnati," stated Wright. "We were very impressed by Cincinnati. We are going to learn a lot from that (game).
"I hope we can take that into the UConn game. There are a lot of things that Cincinnati does with their guards that bothered us that UConn does too. We've got to improve in that area."
The Wildcats struggled to find an offensive flow at Cincinnati from start to finish. Villanova used a five point run just before halftime to close within three of the Bearcats but in the second half UC got its own offense untracked and kept the defensive heat on VU. Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker each scored19 points and UC connected on 12-of-25 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
"In terms of our performance," Wright noted, "we probably took a step back. In terms of our growth, we're going to take a big step forward. Their guards really dominated the game and we've got to learn how to control outstanding guards, which is a big part of what makes UConn so tough."
The Huskies are led by the perimeter trio of Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, and Omar Calhoun.
"Boatright and Napier can get a shot for themselves at any time," noted Wright. "That's what the Cincinnati guards did. And then if you play them too aggressively, they create open shots for their teammates. Then you add Calhoun to that, a (guard) who is playing very well as a freshman, and it's very similar to the Cincinnati guards.
"It's going to be a very difficult task to control those guys but not put so much emphasis on them that you give up easy baskets to the rest of their team."
Villanova and Connecticut tip this nationally televised contest off at noon at the XL Center (ESPN). The game will also be carried on 1210 WPHT Radio, with Steve Pinone filling in for Whitey Rigsby, on the call with Ryan Fannon.