Huskies head to No. 10 Villanova

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Connecticut guard Tyrese Martin (4) reacts after a play against the Providence during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in Storrs, Conn. (David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP)

After a commanding win over Providence on Tuesday, the UConn men’s basketball team is headed down to Pennsylvania to take Villanova in the two schools’ long-awaited first matchup of the season. 

UConn (10-5, 7-5 Big East) has had a bit of a roller coaster of a season so far, largely due to injuries to multiple really key pieces. In fact, it’s actually worked out really well for UConn from a competitive standpoint that their first two matchups vs. Villanova were postponed, because they would have been without James Bouknight and Andre Jackson for both of them. Now, though, the team is relatively back to full strength, so the Huskies will get to run out their best possible lineup. 

Villanova (13-3, 8-2 Big East) is doing its usual thing, pacing the Big East and remaining one of the best teams in college basketball. They are however actually coming off of a loss, but it was to Creighton, the team in second place in the Big East, so it’s not totally crazy that happened. One interesting note though is that Villanova hasn’t lost back-to-back conference games in over a calendar year, so UConn is going to have its work cut out for them if they want to break that streak. 

The Wildcats aren’t a particularly tall team, with no one on their roster standing taller than 6-foot-9, and only two of them have gotten minutes. They also have a combined 25 blocks on the season — mark that is dead last in the conference — and no one on their roster is even in double digits. For comparison, the Huskies have six players on their roster who are 6-foot-9 or taller, and Isaiah Whaley by himself has 44 blocks. The Huskies, in that category, lead the conference on a per game basis by over a block a game. 

However, what Nova lacks in height they make up for in scoring. The Wildcats are led by a starting lineup that has stayed the consistent for 15 out of 16 games this season, and all five starters are averaging over 10 points per game. They sit at third in the conference with 78.6 points per game as opposed to UConn’s 71.3 which ranks seventh. They’re also efficient, shooting 46.1% from the field which ranks third in the league and 38.2% from 3, which ranks first. The Huskies are shooting 43.4% from the field and 35.5% from 3, and rank seventh and fifth in those areas, respectively.  

Sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl leads the charge, averaging 15.6 points per game this season on 50% shooting from the field and 32.1% shooting from 3. He’s also the team’s best rebounder, as his 7.3 boards per game also lead the Wildcats. 

Senior point guard Collin Gillespie is right behind him, averaging 14.1 points per game on 41.2% shooting from the field and 37.6% from 3. Gillespie is the team’s primary distributor, leading the team with 5.1 dimes a game, a mark that is second in the conference only to Xavier’s Paul Scruggs. 

Sophomore guard Justin Moore is second in the assists department with about 3.2 per game and third in scoring with 13.4 points per game. He does so on 43.3% shooting from the field and 33.7% from 3. 

Senior forward Jermaine Samuels is fourth in the scoring department with 11.4 points per game, doing so shooting a clean 50% from the field and grabbing 6.4 boards, the second most on the team. While he’s taken the fewest amount of 3s of the starting five this season, he’s hit them at the highest clip, shooting 46.2% from behind the arc. 

Redshirt junior guard Caleb Daniels rounds out the starting five, averaging 10.9 points per game on a really solid 45.7% from the field and 43.1% from 3. 

Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m., and the game can be watched on FOX. 

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