Women’s Basketball Recap: UConn pulls away from Villanova in second half and advances to 5-0 start to season

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On Tuesday, Dec. 22, the UConn Women’s Basketball Team hosted the Villanova Wildcats at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. At times it was a struggle, but thanks to a balanced scoring effort from the Huskies’ starters, they were ultimately able to escape with a 90-52 victory and improve their season record to 5-0. 

The first half of play between the Huskies and Wildcats was more tightly contested than the final score would suggest. Both teams entered Tuesday’s game undefeated and Villanova was close behind for the majority of the first two quarters. After a 23-17 first quarter lead was shaved down to only three points in the second, UConn appeared to be in a bit of trouble. That was, until they ended the first half on a 10-0 run and entered the third quarter up 42-29. From there, the Huskies took care of business and closed out the 90-52 victory over Villanova. 

UConn guard Christyn Williams (13) and Villanova forward Lior Garzon (12) and guard Bella Runyan (32) scramble under the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Villanova, Pa. UConn won 90-52. Photo by Laurence Kesterson/AP

By the end of Tuesday’s matchup, UConn had outperformed Villanova in nearly every facet of the game. Four of their starting five scored at least 17 points and they shot 54.7% from the floor as a team while holding Villanova to a mark of 29%. They out-rebounded the Wildcats 47 to 35, had five more assists, five fewer turnovers and seven fewer fouls. 

For Auriemma, the keys to the game were that the upperclassmen in Evina Westbrook, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams all performed very well. He was particularly complimentary of Westbrook, who finished the game with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

“I thought this was Evina’s best game by far since she’s been here … I thought she was outstanding,” Auriemma said. “She shot the ball really well, she facilitated really well, got her hands on some balls [and] rebounded.” 

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who finished the game with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in only 23 minutes of work played well while Christyn Williams also had a strong outing with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. He said, “When the three of them are able to do what they did, that takes a lot of the pressure off everybody else.” 

Connecticut forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa (20) and guard Christyn Williams reach for the ball with Villanova forward Brianna Herlihy (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, in Villanova, Pa. Photo by Laurence Kesterson/AP

Even with all the positives though, Auriemma believes his team has another level they can reach defensively. 

“We’re a work in progress on defense,” he said. “A lot of our young [players] and even our older [players] just aren’t there. We’re just not there yet.”  

For now, the Huskies will take the win and improve their season record to 5-0. Their next game will be against the No. 18 seeded DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday, Dec. 29 after the holiday break. 

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