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UConn suffered its first bad loss this season on Saturday afternoon.
It was a bad loss because it came at home against a mediocre Big East team in Villanova.
It was a bad loss because the Huskies fell woefully short in the effort and energy departments.
It also was their first loss to a Big East team without a winning record.
Villanova pulled away in the final 10 minutes and won, 70-61, at the XL Center.
“They played with more toughness than us and really just out-willed us towards the end of the game,” sophomore DeAndre Daniels said.
Freshman Omar Calhoun led UConn (17-7, 7-5) with 16 points and six rebounds.
Check out the attached video of coach Kevin Ollie’s post-game press conference.
Here’s a post-game rundown with notes and news:
-- The plus-minus ratings were revealing.
Junior Shabazz Napier had the highest among regulars at plus 2. The Huskies were a better team when he was on the floor. Foul trouble limited him to season-low 29 minutes.
Napier had a season-best 10 assists but a season-low two points on 1-for-8 shooting. He also had five turnovers.
On the negative side, sophomore Ryan Boatright had a minus 21. Yes, he was that bad.
Boatright had a season low-four points – all in the final 51 seconds – on 2-for-7 shooting and really struggled as the point guard when Napier was out. He had only one assist and five turnovers.
Both guards also had trouble defending freshman Ryan Arcidiacono, who had a game-high 25 points.
“They just both had off-nights and we know we can’t afford to have both of those guys have off-nights at the same time,” Daniels said.
-- It was the first time all season that both Napier and Boatright failed to score in double figures in a game. They were both scoreless at halftime.
Napier on his offensive approach: “I was being too passive. I didn’t do too much offensively other than pass the ball.
-- UConn appeared to be heading in the right direction in the rebounding department after winning the battle of the boards in the two previous games.
But the Wildcats dominated the boards, 41-25. They had 20 offensive rebounds, including two huge ones late in the second half that led to two James Bell three-pointers. They finished with 20 second chance points.
A lack of toughness was an issue for UConn.
“We played too fragile today and didn’t have our toughness,” Napier said.
The Wildcats entered the game ranked second in rebounding margin (plus 4.1) in Big East games. Senior Mouphtaou Yarou had a game-high 16 rebounds to go with 11 points.
-- Freshman Leon Tolksdorf turned in the surprise performance of the game. He came off the bench and made his first two shots – both 3-pointers – to ignite the Huskies in the first half.
He had played in just one of the previous nine games and made six appearances overall, scoring a total of 10 points.
As soon as Tolksdorf missed, Ollie pulled the freshman from the game. He finished with a career-best six points in six minutes.
-- One of the few bright spots was the play of the bench. UConn’s reserves out-scored its counterparts, 20-4. Tolksdorf, junior Niels Giffey (11 pts, 3 rebs) and Salem’s R.J. Evans (3 pts) made contributions.
Freshman forward Phil Nolan couldn’t duplicate his career-best rebounding effort againstSyracuse. He had just one rebound in five minutes.
-- Giffey made an interesting comment after the game. He said that the Huskies missed the physical presence of 7-1 center Enosch Wolf, who was suspended indefinitely after his arrest on Monday.
“He has a big body…,” Giffey said. “He also changes a lot of shots. We missed him out there.”
It is unlikely that Wolf will return this season.
-- For the first time in a few games, UConn faced a man-to-man defense. And the Huskies responded poorly, committing 19 turnovers.
Villanova trapped and harassed UConn’s ball handlers and stepped into passing lanes. The Wildcats had 11 steals.
-- Villanova coach Jay Wright had this to say about the UConn basketball program"
“This is special basketball country up here,” Wright said. “We’ve had some great games against UConn. I have so much respect for coach (Jim) Calhoun. I got to see him before the game, and I really appreciate that he came to say hello. I think he’s one of the all-time greats.
“Kevin Ollie is doing a really good job here. That’s why this was a very good win for us because I think we beat a very good team.”
-- The Huskies suffered only their second home loss this season, dropping to 11-2. They also failed to win a game after leading at intermission (33-30) for only the second time, falling to 12-2.
-- Ollie has faith that his Huskies will bounce back against Cincinnati(19-7, 7-6), which visits on Thursday. The Bearcats have lost three of their last four.
“This team has got a lot of heart,” Ollie said, “so I’m not worried. But we do have to tighten some stuff up, and we’ve got to get them playing with that toughness that we need each and every day.”
-- When asked what UConn needs to do to be tougher, Ollie responded:
“We need effort. We need to hit people. We need to have an attitude that it’s my rebound and nobody else is going to get it. I’m willing to knock people over.
“…. And it just doesn’t start in the game, it starts in practice. .. When you get to the scorer’s table, when you walk for a jump ball, they should see that intensity on your face.”
-- Future Husky Kentan Facey attended the game. He is looking forward to joining the team next season.
A 6-foot-9, 195-pound forward, Facey is averaging about 14 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks for Long Island Lutheran, which just completed its regular season with a 21-2 record.
Facey knows he has to get stronger to compete in the Big East.
“That’s probably what is going to determine how effective I am,” Facey said.
Facey played two years of AAU basketball with fellow future Husky Terrence Samuel, who’s from Brooklyn and attendsSouthShoreHigh School.
“We are looking forward to play with each other,” Facey said.
Today’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal doubleheader is underway here at the XL Center in Hartford. A crowd in the 12,000-13,000 range is expected for the UConn-Tulsa game. Tip-off time is 5 p.m.