'Nova digs deep in second half to overcome Huskies

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Villanova went inside in the first half and
stayed outside in the second. Add some solid defense and an
offensive boost from an unlikely source, and the Wildcats came up
with a way to beat No. 1 Connecticut.

Allan Ray keyed the Wildcats' 7-for-9 effort from 3-point range
in the second half and fourth-ranked Villanova beat the Huskies
69-64 Monday night, its first victory over a top-ranked team in
nearly 11 years.

"It was a big test for us. UConn was a great team," said Ray,
who had 19 of his 25 points in the second half. "A lot of teams
didn't think we were going to win. It was just a great test for us
to go out and see where we were at."

Ray had five 3-pointers in a 22-4 run that gave Villanova (20-2,
10-1 Big East) the lead for good in its ninth straight victory. The
Wildcats, who forced the Huskies into 17 turnovers, also got a lift
from their center in an offense that relies on four guards.

The four guards account for 79 percent of the team's points, but
center Will Sheridan, who averages 4.5 points per game, matched his
career high with 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help the
Wildcats stand up to Connecticut's size advantage.

"We need to get our forwards involved. We've been working on
it," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Will has been defending,
making plays, but not scoring as much. Tonight he took it to
another level in a big game against an outstanding team, which I
think tells you a lot about Will Sheridan."

Sheridan, not known for his outside shot, hit two big jumpers
from the corner in the second half.

"They made 3s, Sheridan hit some tough baselines. I don't know
what adjustments you'd like us to make for Allan Ray's
28-footers," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.

Rudy Gay had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (22-2,
9-2), who had an 11-game winning streak snapped and dropped to 7-1
against ranked teams this season.

Connecticut had a chance to tie in the final seconds but Marcus
Williams lost the ball for the Huskies' final turnover and Ray made
two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to make it 69-64.

"There was supposed to be a pick but Rashad Anderson said Ray
pushed him and we bumped and lost the ball," Williams said.

It seemed most of the 20,859 at the Wachovia Center, the largest
crowd to watch a college basketball game in Pennsylvania history,
stormed the court to celebrate the Wildcats' first win over a No. 1
team since Feb. 18, 1995, when they beat Connecticut.

"I think we beat them on a good night. They're great. They
deserve to be No. 1," Wright said. "They answered everything we
did, we answered what they did and that's what made a great game
between two outstanding teams."

UConn opened the second half with a 13-0 run to go ahead 45-33.
That's when Ray, a 36 percent from 3-point range entering the game,
started his long-range barrage. The first 12 points of the big run
were on his 3-pointers and Mike Nardi, who had missed the last two
games with tonsillitis, scored his only points of the game on
another 3.

The Wildcats were 2-for-10 in the first half on 3s, but they
made five of their first six in the second half.

Kyle Lowry, who had 16 of his 18 points in the first half on a
series of inside baskets against Connecticut's big frontline, which
leads the nation in blocked shots, then scored on an offensive
rebound and Villanova was ahead 50-47 with 11:35 to play.

After Williams scored on a drive, Ray hit the last of his 3s and
Sheridan connected on a jumper from the corner and it was 55-49
with 9:20 to go.

Sheridan knows he isn't much of an outside threat.

"Everybody doubles our guards, why wouldn't you?" he asked.
"They were kind of backing off a little bit. I just felt like I
had good looks tonight. The guards were seeing me."

Connecticut, which missed four straight free throws over the
final 5 minutes, got within 67-64 on a drive and short jumper by
Williams around two missed drives by the Wildcats, who were trying
to use up as much of the shot clock as possible. "There's no one in the country that has guard play like them
and they're a very difficult team to stop," Calhoun said. "Lowry
was driving by anybody and everybody we had.

"They did a good job of putting so much ball pressure on us
through traps and otherwise."

Randy Foye finished with 10 points for Villanova, which is 5-14
all-time against No. 1 teams. The Wildcats, who had 13 steals, had
lost seven of their last eight against the Huskies.

Williams and Anderson each had 12 points for Connecticut, which
had 11 turnovers in the first half, three off their season average
for a game.

"They denied our passes and played the passing lanes well,"
Williams said. "They are a gritty team but we had a 10-point lead
in the second half and missed free throws. That's got something to
do with focus."

The Huskies, who had been 14-1 on the road as a No. 1 team,
blocked eight shots, one off their average.

The teams meet in Storrs, Conn., on Feb. 26.

"I was already marking down that game," Gay said. "Now,

ESPN Fan Shop Powered By

  • Nike Men's UConn Huskies Blue ELITE Basketball KO Performance Pullover HoodieShop

  • Nike Men's Villanova Wildcats Blue University ELITE Basketball T-ShirtShop