26 days ago, just 43 short miles away from Uncasville’s Mohegan Sun Arena, in Hartford, CT, the Villanova Wildcats took down the UConn Huskies in one of the biggest upsets of the season. On Monday, the Huskies got one back, drilling the Wildcats in a 70-40 victory.
“[Revenge] was a factor,” senior guard Christyn Williams said. “When they beat us, that one hurt. We came out there with a chip on our shoulder. We didn’t want to let them beat us again.”
“It takes a lot to get to this point,” coach Geno Auriemma noted. “If you did it right, you have nothing left to give. They hate practice, but they enjoy the competition. This one was a lot of fun.”
After starting the game with two consecutive turnovers, Aaliyah Edwards grabbed the offensive board off a Christyn Williams miss and got the putback. Two possessions later, Azzi Fudd passed up an open three for an even more open mid-range shot. On the very next Husky possession, Fudd got on the backdoor cut and then Williams got open for a triple. Down 9-0 just 3:45 into the contest, Villanova Coach Denise Dillon was forced to burn a timeout.
Fresh out of the break, Brianna Herlihy splashed a three, but Williams and Edwards quickly responded with a pair of layups. Big East Player of the Year Maddie Siegrist got the Villanova crowd excited and Missy Olson tacked on a floater to cut it to five. Evina Westbrook and Dorka Juhasz each added a pair, but Brooke Mullin converted on a crazy floater of her own to close out the frame down 17-10.
There seemed to be a lid on the basket for the first 3:10 of the second quarter, but Caroline Ducharme hit three layups over the course of less than two minutes. Paige Bueckers nailed a tough step-back jumper and then Westbrook followed suit with one of her own. After seemingly being a few inches off the entire half, Siegrist finally got a few close shots to go. Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa kept the Wildcats at bay though, hitting layups of their own to keep a 15 point lead into the half, up 33-18.
Siegrist opened up the second with a strong layup in the first ten seconds and Herlihy added a three. On a sloppy UConn possession, Edwards muscled in for a two pointer and a few plays later, Nelson-Ododa got a layup to fall. Fudd faked Olson out on the pump, allowing herself to get open on the 17-footer. Garzon got one back, hitting a triple, before Edwards and Juhasz nailed back-to-back deuces. Fudd came off the screen for a long two and Edwards got one to go from a similar range. Lior Garzon missed a deep ball in the closing seconds, giving the Huskies a commanding 49-26 advantage going into the fourth.
After three consecutive Wildcat fouls to start the final quarter, Bueckers found Ducharme open in the corner for the triple. Siegrist responded with the tough fallaway jumper and Olson contributed a three to cut the lead to 20. Siegrist got her own miss and put it back, but Evina Westbrook slithered through the defense two straight times for a 4-0 run. This sequence effectively ended the game, with things just getting out of hand towards the end as Villanova ran out of gas.
Aaliyah Edwards had a great game and was named to the All-Tournament team, scoring 12 points, grabbing six boards and dishing out two assists on 5-9 shooting. Edwards has finally found the consistency she’s been searching for as of late, averaging 11 points and seven rebounds in the past five contests. She’s emerging just at the right time and will be a critical piece for the Huskies as they enter the NCAA Tournament.
“I knew I had to be more aggressive and impactful and carry that over into the postseason,” Edwards said.
“When you have choices, you sometimes feel like you have to use all the choices, but you have to go with what works,” Auriemma noted. “This whole tournament, Aaliyah was a disrupting factor defense and rebounding-wise. She had it going all weekend.”
WILLIAMS MOST OUTSTANDING
Christyn Williams locked in the Most Outstanding Player of the BET, thanks to her 31 points and eight rebounds during the tournament. It was really a team effort in all three blowouts, but Williams was a key leader and a voice throughout it all. She was also the Huskies’ most consistent player of the season, so the award was likely a testament to her performance throughout the year.
“It’s very important to step it up in the postseason since we’re so close to the goal,” Williams noted. “I try to keep the intensity up. [Westbrook and Edwards] could have easily gotten [MOP]. Throughout the season, the other people have had to step up and we’re playing our best basketball of the year.”
“I’m glad we have these ten days,” Auriemma said. “She’s got a lot of work to do. She has her good days and she has her bad days. Get her physically feeling better, but she needs to get her mind right now. ”
The Huskies will play next in the NCAA Tournament and their seeding will be announced this Sunday, March 13.