Huskies hang on
UConn survives challenge from visiting Villanova
HARTFORD — Nearly a year after Villanova ended the UConn women’s basketball program’s 169-game conference winning streak with victory over the Huskies at the XL Center, the Wildcats were poised for another upset Sunday afternoon.
But this time, UConn survived. Barely.
After sputtering on offense and falling into a six-point hole early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies won their 13th consecutive game with a 63-58 victory.
The No. 21 Wildcats (18-4, 9-2 in the Big East) seized control of the game in the third quarter were on the brink pulling away in the fourth. But UConn (20-2, 12-0) gathered itself in the waning minutes,
But it was never easy. Leading by five, UConn turned the ball over with 31 seconds left. Villanova’s Lucy Olsen hit a 3pointer with 22 seconds left to make it a one-possession game.
Edwards was fouled with 10 seconds left, converting 1 of 2 from the line.
But Maddy Siegrist missed a 3 pointer with five seconds left and Olsen was off with one second remaining. Edward sank two free throws and the Huskies walked off with a win.
UConn struggled offensively in the second, missing its first 10 field goal attempts. Still, the Huskies trailed by just two points heading into the final 20 minutes.
Villanova’s 4-0 run early expanded the Wildcats lead to 51-45 with 8 minutes left. But the Huskies answered with a layup from Aaliyah Edwards and 3pointer by Nika Mühl to make it 51-50.
Olsen’s free throw for Villanova made it a two-point game, but Aubrey Griffin hit two foul shots to tie it with 4:52 left.
Just over a minute later, Griffin drove through the paint for a basket and was sent to the line when she was fouled by Olsen. Griffin, playin with four fouls, converted the free throw and UConn led by three.
But Olsen converted a three-point play with 3:05 left to tie it.
UConn’s response? Dorka Juhász, a 6-foot-5 post player, sank an uncontested 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:44 left.
With just under a minute, Edwards hit two foul shots to boost the UConn lead to 55-50.
Griffin led UConn with 19 points and six rebounds while Juhász had 16 points and seven rebounds. Edwards, matched against Siegrist, had 13 and six.
Siegrist had 25 points and eight rebounds.
UConn took a 33-30 lead into the second half, but the Huskies were off kilter offensively in the third quarter. UConn’s first points came on a pair of free throws by Lou Lopez Sénéchal 6:27 into the half and the first field goal came on a layup by Mühl
32 seconds later.
The XL Crowd, standing until the first UConn basket, could finally sit. But by then, Villanova had the lead.
The Wildcats took the lead on two free throws by Siegrist 2:47 into the third and the lead later grew to five on a jumper by the reigning Big East Player of the Year.
Siegrist later hit a jumper to make it 40-35 before Mühl’s basket. Juhász converted in the paint and Griffin hit two foul shots to make 45-43 after three.
No. 5 UConn was playing in its fourth game in the last nine days. Villanova hadn’t played in over eight days.
The difference in freshness became apparent in Sunday’s second quarter. UConn was slow to make shots and chose crowded lanes to run through instead of finding an open player.
The Huskies had led by
as much as eight in the first 10 minutes, but the Wildcats cut that lead to one within the first two and a half minutes of the
UConn had suffered turnovers in its first three possessions in the second, while Villanova went on a 7-0 run to decrease its deficit. The Wildcats scored 10 points from UConn’s 10 turnovers in the first half.
Geno Auriemma called timeout to regroup his team.
The redshirt junior sparked an 8-2 UConn run immediately out of the timeout, scoring six of UConn’s points in the spurt. Griffin was the first Husky to reach doubledigit scoring ending the first half with 12 points but also with three fouls.
But the Wildcats were backing down as they closed the first half within three and outscored the Huskies 13-10 in the second quarter.
The Huskies will travel to Rhode Island on Wednesday to face Providence at 7 p.m. (SNY).