Villanova beats UConn to reach Big East Tourney final


It looked and sounded like the old Big East. The result was familiar to the new.

A sold-out garden swayed as before in March – pre-realignment – ​​as two former rivals met in an electric atmosphere that could have featured two weekend second teams. In the end, No. 2 Villanova reminded everyone that he still controls this league, beating the third-seeded Huskies for the majority of the second half and advancing to the game for the Saturday night’s Big East tournament title with a 63-60 semi-final win.

After being eliminated in the quarter-finals by Georgetown a year ago, the Wildcats will look to cut the net against fourth-seeded Creighton, an 85-58 winner over No. 1 Providence.

Villanova, the betting favorite at the start of this tournament, had to go through St. John’s Thursday night in the quarterfinals by one point. It was much more impressive 24 hours later, using Connecticut’s strength – its interior – against them. The Wildcats mostly went for a five-out offense, creating lags on the perimeter, and they defended Huskies star big man Adama Sanogo well, limiting him to 15 points on 6 of 15 shots.

Jermaine Samuels dunks the ball in the second half.
Getty Images

At the other end of the field, Sanogo found himself frequently on more mobile forward Jermaine Samuels, who set him on fire for 19 points and 11 rebounds. This game was about the other Villanova guys. In addition to Samuels, Brandon Slater had 15 points after making the game-winning free throws against St. John’s in the dying seconds the previous night. Co-stars Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore scored just 12 points between them, though Gillespie had 10 assists and a turnover to deftly handle the Connecticut pressure.

Tyrese Martin led the Huskies with 19 points and six rebounds and RJ Cole added 11 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Martin had a chance at the buzzer after Gillespie missed a free throw, but his lift just inside half court was on the left.

Villanova entered the contest with a game plan of probing the paint, but not going all the way. Eighteen of his first 23 shots were 3-point attempts. They made eight, allowing them to stay close despite Connecticut’s size and strength.

brandon slater
Brandon Slater finished with 15 points.
Tim Nwachukwu

It was no surprise. The surprise was the players hurting the Huskies. Moore and Gillespie scored just two combined points on 1-of-6 shooting. Slater and Samuels were the Wildcats’ top two performers in the first half, combining for 22 points and hitting five 3-pointers.

Neither team led by more than five into the half, and Villanova led by one point at the break. At the start of the second half, after Sanogo missed a few rabbits, the momentum changed. Coach Jay Wright’s team rode a 15-6 streak, making six of eight field goal attempts to come back 52-44 on Eric Dixon’s 3-pointer with 10:21 remaining. UConn, meanwhile, went scoreless for 3:20, until Martin’s three-point play ended the drought.

New York Post

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