UConn women’s basketball stunned by Villanova, 72-69

UConn women’s basketball lost its first conference game in nine years, losing to the Villanova Wildcats 72-69. The loss ends the Huskies’ 169-game winning streak against conference foes dating back to the 2013 Big East Tournament Finals against Notre Dame.

UConn made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter that failed. Despite a 16-point lead with four minutes left, the Huskies cut the deficit to two with nine seconds left after four straight shots from Villanova. However, UConn failed to shoot with 2.1 seconds to go following another Wildcats miss from the line.

The Huskies were without Carolina Ducharme (lead) for a second straight game while Olivia Nelson-Ododa was also out. Although the senior was among the starters before the game, Evina Westbrook replaced her at the last second. SNY reported that Nelson-Ododa was not feeling well before the whistleblower while Geno Auriemma offered no details after the match.

“Liv let us know after we put the names in the book (for the starting lineup) that she couldn’t go today,” the coach said.

“She just said she couldn’t go,” he later added.

Fudd went all out with a career-high 29 points — including 13 in the fourth quarter — while Williams had 24 points. No other Huskies had more than six points.

UConn was outplayed defensively and on the glass. Villanova shot 52% from the field — including 10-22 from three — and rebounded the Huskies 37-21. Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhász each grabbed only one board. The Wildcats have never hung around.

Without Nelson-Ododa, UConn fell headfirst out of the gates. He made just three of his first 11 shots and had little throughput on the offensive side. The Huskies also struggled with turnovers and coughed the ball four times in the first period.

On the other side, UConn’s defense was disorganized while Villanova simultaneously couldn’t miss. At one point in the first quarter, the Wildcats missed as many shots (10-13 shots) as the Huskies (3-11).

UConn trailed by as much as 15 points before a close quarter in which it made its final three shots and forced Villanova to miss its final four shots cut the deficit to 10.

In the second quarter, the Huskies made progress early with the first two field goals and closed the gap to five points a few times, but couldn’t get closer. Every time UConn had a shot, the Wildcats seemed to tie it on the other end.

The Huskies didn’t come in until halftime seven down, but things started to escalate in the third quarter. UConn scored just one field goal in the first five and a half minutes as Villanova extended their lead to 11 points.

The UConn defense couldn’t stop Villanova’s shooters from crossing the 3-point line. After a triple from Williams brought the Huskies within six, the Wildcats went 16-3 that included four marks from beyond the arc that pushed the gap to 19 points.

Even when Williams and Fudd landed big shots, Villanova just came back and scored at the other end without too much trouble. After three quarters, UConn was down 17 points.

The Huskies nearly pulled off the unlikely comeback, but eventually ran out of time.

With the loss, UConn drops to 15-5 on the season and 9-1 in Big East play. Next, the Huskies will face the DePaul Blue Demons on Friday at Gampel Pavilion. Tipping is set at 7 p.m. EST on SNY.

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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