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Notes & Quotes: UConn Struggles in Loss to Villanova

NEW YORK – The generosity of the UConn Huskies made sure Villanova and its fans will have a Merry Christmas this year.

A second-half collapse by the Huskies helped the Wildcats claim an 81-58 victory in the renewal of an old Big East tussle Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Villanova (9-4) snapped a two-game losing skid, with Eric Paschall (21 points) and Phil Booth (18, 6-for-6 from the field) leading the way.

Christian Vital was the top scorer for UConn (9-4) with 18 and Alterique Gilbert added 14.

The teams were tied, 30-30, at the half, but Villanova broke the game open with a 19-0 run in the second half.


Opening Act: Under the bright lights of MSG, the first half was a decent one for the Huskies. They shot 50 percent from the field, were 4-for-8 on 3-pointers and even led 30-25 with 2:29 after Jalen Adams’ layup.

Dan Hurley: “For us, twenty-three minutes we were in there with a chance. Obviously, some of our struggles in some of these bigger games, Florida State, Arizona, just the bad stretches – multiple offensive, multiple defensive possession where we don’t defend or have lost possessions offensively.”

Christian Vital: “We just didn’t make enough plays – give credit to Villanova. They made it a lot harder to get those easy looks that we were getting earlier and that’s how we got the lead.”

Villanova head coach Jay Wright: “UConn, they are a team that’s going to play you hard and scrap it up. If you are smart and aggressive, you can take advantage of it. But a lot of times like in the first half they make it very difficult for you to be smart and aggressive. It’s a style I think Danny is doing a good job with.”



Looking for Jalen: UConn is supposed to follow its leader, and this time Adams led his teammates down a dark path of bad shots and turnovers. Adams had a season-high six mistakes and shot just 3-for-13 from the field. He finished with eight points – the second time in three games he finished in six digits.

Hurley: “I liked how he drove it at times, and he had a couple good days of practice. He got himself mentally ready to go today, it just didn’t go down for him. I don’t mind the 3s he took, we want him to shoot the 3. We need him in games like this to perform at a high level for us to have a chance. There’s a lot of pressure on him to do it, but I thought he had a good mindset.”

Wright: “Just playing him as a team, we did not want to play him 1-on-1. I knew that could hurt us from (3-point range leaving that area open). … We had to pick our poison and we just didn’t want him getting in the lane and creating fouls, and shots and offensive rebounds for everybody.”

Defensive Generosity: The Huskies got into the holiday spirit a little too soon, gift wrapping a victory for Villanova with a turnover-plagued second half. UConn took a 36-35 lead at 17:07 of the second half on two Adams’ foul shots before things unraveled on Villanova’s 19-0 run. UConn never recovered from the 54-36 hole. Five of the six turnovers committed over that run led to points for Villanova. Overall, the Wildcats scored 15 points on 17 UConn mistakes. Adams, Vital, Gilbert and Tarin Smith had a combined 14 turnovers.

Hurley: “We had a huge stretch where we were up one, and then the 19-0 run. Credit Villanova, obviously one of the best programs in the country and obviously we showed how far away we are from being there with today’s performance in front of a great crowd. I wish we could have giving them something that last 17 minutes. It was obviously a really brutal last 17 minutes for us.”

Gilbert: “The team’s hunger has to go up. In these types of games, we got to want to win – that’s just what it comes down to.”

Glass Cleaned: The Huskies finished with one offensive rebound in the first half and no second-chance points. The Huskies didn’t get a second-chance basket until Josh Carlton finished Tyler Polley’s miss early in the second half to make it 32-30 UConn. Villanova won the overall rebound battle 35-21. The Huskies scored just six second-chance points on five offensive rebounds.

Hurley: “I don’t think there’s an area where we are necessarily excelling in. We play hard … We have to become a little more tough-minded team. When things go south, and we’re losing crowd, get a stop or step into a big shot and make it to stop the bleeding. I’m not sure what kind of drill you do for that more of a day-to-day thing.”


Hurley said Eric Cobb was a DNP because he wasn’t a good matchup against Villanova. “We’re day-to-day with him,” Hurley said. … Kwintin Williams missed his third straight game due to illness, according to the team. … Mamadou Diarra (knee) also did not play. Hurley said the red-shirt sophomore is still trying to recover from off-season surgery – which has kept him sidelined all season – and hopes to have Diarra back for American Athletic Conference play. “He’s not ready,” Hurley said. … Villanova was without guard Collin Gillespie (concussion). … The teams met for the first time at MSG since March 12, 2004 when the Huskies won 84-67. Ben Gordon scored 29 points in the Big East Tournament semifinal meeting. … This was the fifth meeting between the schools at MSG


UConn, at South Florida, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m.