(23) Connecticut 70

(15-6, 6-4 Big East)

Villanova 79

(14-9, 7-3 Big East)

    12:00 PM ET, February 15, 2003

    The Pavilion (Villanova), Villanova, Pennsylvania

    1 2 T
    #23CONN 33 3770
    VILL 36 4379

    Villanova pulls away in final minutes for victory

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Connecticut made more shots, grabbed more rebounds and had more assists, but still found a way to lose.

    Gary Buchanan scored 28 points and Ricky Wright added 13, leading Villanova to a 79-70 victory over the Huskies (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) on Saturday.

    UConn (15-6, 6-4 Big East) held the Wildcats to just 31.3 percent shooting (21-for-67), but couldn't overcome 24 turnovers.

    "We just gave them so many possessions," said UConn associate head coach George Blaney, who is filling while Jim Calhoun recovers from prostate surgery. "I'm really disappointed. It's unacceptable."

    Villanova (14-9, 7-3), which had lost four of five, hadn't beaten a ranked opponent since upsetting then-No. 9 Michigan State 81-73 on Nov. 29.

    "Early in the game, we got stops. That kept us in it until we could make some shots," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said.

    Ben Gordon scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half, and Emeka Okafor added 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Huskies, who had won two straight after losing two in a row by more than 20 points.

    Gordon, UConn's leading scorer, was in the starting lineup despite being arrested Friday on charges of slapping a female student, who also was arrested for allegedly hitting him. Gordon was released on $1,000 bond and is scheduled for a court appearance Feb. 25.

    "It was a lack of concentration, miscommunication and unforced errors," Gordon said of the turnovers. "It hurt us really bad."

    UConn, which trailed most of the second half, got to 65-63 with 4:13 left on three straight free throws by Gordon, who was fouled by Randy Foye while shooting a 3-pointer.

    But a putback slam by Wright and a 3-pointer by Buchanan increased Villanova's lead to 70-63 with 3:11 remaining. After a putback by Rashad Anderson, the Wildcats scored five straight on free throws to ice it.

    "That's a great team," Buchanan said. "We knew they'd make a run, but we stayed calm."

    UConn, which beat Syracuse (No. 18, No. 17) 75-61 on Monday, had dropped from No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll by losing four of seven before defeating the Orangemen. The Huskies are 2-2 without Calhoun, who was released from the hospital last Sunday, three days after having surgery to remove a cancerous prostate.

    "We should've won," Okafor said. "We had our chances. We were careless. We can't win with 24 turnovers."

    Villanova, which lost to UConn 74-65 on Jan. 25, had lost nine of the last 12 in the series.

    After a fastbreak layup by Denham Brown gave the Huskies a 51-47 lead 5:57 into the second half, Villanova went on a 9-0 run and led the rest of the way.

    Derrick Snowden's 3-pointer ignited the run. Marcus Austin followed with a layup and Allan Ray made four straight free throws, including two for a technical on Blaney.

    Gordon, averaging 20.3 points per game, missed six of seven shots in the first half but made his first four in the second half. He finished 8-for-19.

    Buchanan was 8-for-17, including 6-for-12 from 3-point range.

    "If I'm making shots, the team has confidence to keep giving me the ball," Buchanan said.

    UConn shot 43.1 percent (28-for-65), outrebounded Villanova 50-39 and had 13 assists, three more than the Wildcats. But the Huskies committed 16 more turnovers, giving Villanova many more possessions.

    The Huskies were without starting point guard Taliek Brown for the third straight game. Brown will be out four-to-six weeks with a broken finger.

    Despite shooting just 30.6 percent in the first half, Villanova led 36-33 at halftime. A 3-pointer by Foye gave the Wildcats their biggest lead to that point, 29-22. Buchanan's third 3 of the half made it 36-30 before a 3-point play by Okafor cut the deficit to three at the half.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2002-03 Season

    Jan 25, 2003 @CONN 74, VILL 65Recap
    » Feb 15, 2003 @VILL 79, CONN 70Recap