Discover more from The UConn Fast Break
Notes & Quotes: UConn over Villanova, 74-66
The double-digit win streak ends, but the Huskies remain undefeated going into their final game of 2022.
HARTFORD, Conn. — A year ago, an off night from Adama Sanogo might have spelled the end for UConn.
But this Huskies’ squad is far from a one-trick pony.
Jordan Hawkins scored 22 points, the defense was stingy, and Hassan Diarra provided the grit and poise that the second-ranked Huskies needed to defeat Villanova, 74-66, Wednesday night in front of a packed house at the XL Center.
Freshman Alex Karaban added 15 points and Andre Jackson Jr. had 10 for the Huskies (14-0, 3-0 Big East), who matched their third-best start in school history, tying the 1953-54 squad. Only two teams have started a season better, with the 1998-99 team’s 19-0 mark on top of the list.
UConn remains one of three undefeated in the nation along with No. 1 Purdue and New Mexico.
It was the first time the Huskies didn’t win by double digits this year, and the Huskies are clearly getting every opponent’s best effort, but the heat isn’t bothering them.
“Pressure is being 6-8, there’s no pressure on us,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “We have a good team.”
Hawkins scored in double figures for the sixth straight time and had his fourth 20-point game of the season. He shot 6 of 14 from the field and 4-from-11 on 3-pointers.
“I’ve always been confident in my game,” Hawkins said. “It’s been a lot of hard work and that’s what you need to build your confidence.”
Sanogo sat more than half of the first half after getting his second foul, scoring just two points in the first 20 minutes. He was more active with five points in the second half, but ultimately Karaban, Jackson, and three guys adding six points each—Donovan Clingan, Hassan Diarra, and Tristen Newton—kept UConn on top.
“UConn’s a really good team,” Villanova head coach Kyle Neptune said. “They are number two for a reason, they have multiple guys who can beat you.”
Caleb Daniels led Villanova (7-6, 1-1) with 23 points, Eric Dixon added 18 and Brandon Slater added 10.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Great Atmosphere: Hurley liked a lot of what he saw Wednesday night, even starting before the game. Downtown Hartford was buzzing, the XL Center was packed and loud, and then a highly-ranked UConn team took care of business against a marquee opponent - this game had it all. The dignitaries on hand included Governor Ned Lamont, Senator Chris Murphy, and Emeka Okafor.
Dan Hurley: “Unbelievable crowd obviously. This place was electric and it was cool to see on the walk over from the hotel...all the UConn fans in the restaurants, in the windows, probably having a couple cocktails. But just the city a few hours before the game was pretty neat.”
Elite defense: Villanova might have shot 47.8 percent in the first half, but the Husky defense was making the Wildcats work for everything. The visitors finished at 43 percent and did not shoot well from three all night, going 5-for-22 (23%). Jackson, Hawkins, Karaban, and Diarra spearhead that effort. The Huskies also scored 21 points off of 18 forced turnovers.
Villanova head coach Kyle Nepture: “They made it tough defensively trying to get after us…They made it a tough and nasty game.”
Unsung Hero: Hassan Diarra, a transfer from Texas Tech, has flown under the radar but he was ready when the Huskies needed him. In 20 minutes off the bench, he scored six points with four steals - all in the second half - and three assists. He also drew a huge charge late with the Wildcats trying to rally. Villanova cut it to 58-56 with 3:36 to play on Daniels’ three-point play. First Jackson’s steal led to a Sanogo layup, then Diarra drew a charge from Jordan Longino that led to Jackson’s 3-pointer and a 63-56 lead.
Diarra: “My mentality was to be disruptive and pick my team up with energy.”
Hurley: “We felt like he could give us more and he gave us a lot today… I love my guards like that, I love attack guards.”
Win Probability. While Villanova threatened at times, UConn was in control most of the way, as the KenPom win probability chart shows. The lowest win probability for the Huskies Wednesday night was 79 percent, when they trailed early in the second half.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
Get Bigger: It was a quiet night for Sanogo and Clingan. Villanova went small, but UConn struggled to get the ball down low. Hurley credited Villanova’s defense for taking Sanogo away and noted that Clingan was playing 20+ feet away from the hoop at times. The youngster had six points, one rebound, and one block off the bench.
Hurley: “We just couldn’t quite get it to [Adama] in the spots that we like, credit them […] We wanted to get the ball inside a little bit more, but they guarded down low very well.”