Two late offensive fouls on Villanova lead to a heartbreaking loss | Villanova vs. #1 UConn Recap
Written by David Szczepanski on January 21, 2024
Villanova battled for 40 minutes against #1 UConn, but in the end, two late offensive fouls on Justin Moore and the Wildcats lead to a heartbreaking loss. At the final buzzer in front of 18,966 at the Wells Fargo Center, the Huskies defeated the Wildcats, 66-65. TJ Bamba and Justin Moore both scored 15 points for Villanova. Eric Dixon finished with nine points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Dixon was a +16 when on the court. Villanova converted 45% of their shots from the field and 30.4% from three. The Wildcats had just eight turnovers and tied UConn in the rebounding battle with 30.
The Wildcats’ defense was also much improved from the loss to Marquette on Monday afternoon. Villanova held one of the best offenses in college basketball to just 66 points and they won the battle in the paint, 26-22. Although the game ended in a loss, there were some encouraging signs for Villanova heading into the next game against St. John’s. However, the Wildcats still fall to 4-3 in conference play and desperately need a win in this tough part of their schedule.
Tristen Newton, who was the player of the game, led UConn with 25 points, six rebounds, and three assists. He made 8 of 17 shots from the field. Cam Spencer was just 3-11 from the field and 1-6 from three, but he finished the evening with 14 points, including seven made free throw attempts. Alex Karaban and Donovan Clingan did not have their best offensive nights, but they combined for 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Huskies shot 41% from the field and 29.6% from behind the arc. However, they went to the charity stripe 24 times compared to 17 times for Villanova.
The main differences in this game were the more free throw attempts for UConn and the late offensive fouls for Villanova.
First Half: Another Slow Start for Villanova + A Defensive Battle
Once again, the Wildcats did not get off to a good start. They allowed the Huskies to start the game on an 11-0 run over the first four minutes. With 14:07 left in the first half, Hakim Hart finally allowed the loud crowd at the Wells Fargo Center to sit down with a driving layup. Villanova cut the deficit to three points at the under eight-minute media timeout.
UConn led Villanova, 15-12, with 7:34 left in the first. Justin Moore scored six quick points to get the Wildcats back into the game. However, both teams really struggled offensively, and the first half was unexpectedly low scoring. After a Moore three with 6:14 left, Villanova took a 17-16 lead. The Huskies would take a nine-point lead again thanks to Cam Spencer and Hassan Diarra with 2:48 left to play in the first.
The Wildcats executed a nice inbounding play to end the first half with Eric Dixon converting an easy dunk. Villanova trailed by just five points, 29-24, heading into the locker room. The UConn lead could have been much larger with a couple of big runs in the first twenty minutes, but Villanova stayed in the game and played better defensively.
Halftime Stats: UConn-29 Villanova-24
At halftime, Justin Moore led all scorers with nine points. Villanova shot 37.5% from the field, but they were just 2 of 11 from three. Eric Dixon took just three shots in the first half for four points. Cam Spencer was a +9 when on the court for the Huskies with nine points. UConn also converted 37.5% of their shots from the field, but they did a much better job from behind the arc in the first twenty minutes with a 31% success rate.
Mark Armstrong, TJ Bamba, and Eric Dixon started the second half off strong for Villanova. The Wildcats and Huskies went back and forth for a little while early in the second, but Villanova used the momentum from the crowd to take a one-point lead with 15:11 left to go courtesy of a Bamba three-pointer. Bamba achieved his 1,000th career point in this game against the Huskies.
After a Spencer three-point miss, Tyler Burton made another three for Villanova to extend the lead to four points with 13 minutes left to play. Unfortunately, Tristen Newton exploded with an excellent second half. He constantly created space for open opportunities and even converted some heavily contested shots. Newton provided the spark for a Huskies’ run and he extended the UConn lead to nine points with 10 minutes left in regulation.
Hakim Hart scored four quick points for Villanova in the paint and the energy was alive once again in the Wells Fargo Center. The Wildcats and Eric Dixon continued to battle and make free throws. They tied the game at 56 with 3:50 left after a Justin Moore layup. UConn responded as Alex Karaban knocked down a huge three with 2:43 left to give the Huskies a three-point lead.
Villanova had a golden opportunity to shock the Huskies. However, two late offensive fouls on Justin Moore within the last 90 seconds proved to be very costly as the Wildcats could not tie the game with time expiring. The Wildcats tried to play the foul game, but UConn hit their free throws. Despite a half court three-pointer by Mark Armstrong at the buzzer, UConn would hold on by just one point to defeat Villanova.
While it may be true that moral victories are hard to accept at times, the Wildcats made a lot of improvements defensively in this game and played hard for 40 minutes with a chance late to upset #1 UConn. They guarded well in the paint and did a good job at rebounding. Villanova also limited turnovers offensively, and created some good inbounding plays, which were an issue against the Red Storm. Unfortunately, Villanova hurt themselves with another slow start and two late offensive fouls, but I still believe progress was made in this game. Hopefully, they can continue to build off of a strong effort against UConn when they travel to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday.
The Road Ahead + WXVU Coverage
The Wildcats fall to 11-7 overall with a 4-3 conference record. WXVU will have live coverage of Wednesday night’s game against St. John’s in New York beginning with pregame coverage at 8pm. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:30pm.