One of the winningest seasons in program history ended on Saturday as the (2) Villanova Wildcats fell to the (7) Connecticut Huskies 77-65. With the loss, the Wildcats have now been knocked out in the Round of 32 both times that they have been a No. 2 seed.
Early on, Villanova looked to be easily bypassing the Huskies, as the Cats were hot from the field. Jay Wright and Co. started off the game 6/12 from the field as they created an early 19-9 cushion in the first 8:29 of the half.
Then, the Cats went absolutely ice cold. Villanova went 9:46 without scoring in the latter part of the first half, and UCONN then went on a run. The Huskies outscored Villanova 14-0 over the 9-minute period to take a 25-20 lead with 1:32 left in the first half.
The Cats wouldn't go away easily, and cut the UCONN lead to 25-24 going into halftime.
In the second half, it was all Shabazz Napier. The Connecticut senior had his own little Kemba Walker moment as he put the entire team on his back. With 17:41 left in the game, and UCONN up by three, Napier scored 16 of his team's next 24 points as Connecticut went on a 24-13 run. This allowed the Huskies to extend their lead out to 15 with 6:11 left. Napier couldn't seem to miss over that stretch, going 6/7 from the field including a couple of long balls that seemed to come all the way from Storrs.
There was a scary moment soon after, where Napier left with a bruised shin. He played through the pain though, and UCONN was able to withstand a late Nova run to pull out the victory.
Two aspects of the game really ended up killing the Wildcats in this one: turnovers and bench play.
Villanova also struggled with turnovers, giving the ball away 16 times throughout the game. The turnovers really killed any possible flow that the Wildcats were attempting to create on offense, and UCONN converted these mistakes into 20 points. Meanwhile Villanova was only able to manage four points off of the 11 UCONN turnovers.
The bench for ‘Nova was also nonexistent throughout the entire game. The Villanova reserves only managed three points, which all came off of a late and meaningless 3-pointer from Kris Jenkins. As a whole, the bench was ice cold, shooting 14%, and making less shots (1) than they committed turnovers (3).
Due to the lack of bench scoring, the starters were forced to pick up almost all of the offensive slack. Ryan Arcidiacono led all Wildcats' players with 18 points, with three of his four field goals coming from long range. Three other Cats also finished in double figures, as James Bell finished with 14 points, Darrun Hilliard racked up 13, and JayVaughn Pinkston recorded 11 of his own.
For UCONN, it was all about Napier. He finished with a game-high 25 points, with 21 of those coming in the second half of the contest. Four other Huskies also finished with double-digit points, as Lasan Kromah had 12, and Terrence Samuel, Ryan Boatright and DeAndre Daniels all notched 11 points.
With the loss, Villanova ends the season at 29-4. The 29 wins are the second-most in program history. Meanwhile, Connecticut advances to its first Sweet 16 in the Kevin Ollie era, and will play on Thursday against the winner of North Carolina-Iowa State.