‘Cats fall to Huskies



Jon Albert

With Big East rivals Syracuse and Georgetown both getting upset on Sunday, the Wildcats knew that they were in prime position to cushion their lead in the conference standings if they could avoid the same letdown as their peers.

However, Connecticut made sure that the Wildcats suffered the same fate.

Led by sophomore guard Kemba Walker’s career-high 29 points, the Connecticut Huskies defeated the Wildcats 84-75 in a hard-fought battle Monday night at the Wachovia Center. Senior guard Scottie Reynolds was Villanova’s top scorer with 18 points.

The loss was the first home defeat of the season for the Wildcats, and it was the Huskies’ first road win.  Jim Calhoun’s Huskies responded to an embarrassing home loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats this past weekend. 

“We looked like a UConn team tonight,” Calhoun said. “It was a terrific win for us at a terrific time against a terrific team.”

Both teams struggled to gain an early rhythm, likely due to foul problems. Redshirt junior forward Antonio Peña and senior forward Gavin Edwards of Connecticut both picked up two early fouls and were non-factors for most of the first half.  

The loss of Peña was especially damaging for the ‘Cats in the first half. Fourteen of Connecticut’s first 21 points came in the paint. The Huskies jumped out to a 21-15 lead midway through the first quarter.

“We count on our depth to recover when we get in foul trouble,” said Head Coach Jay Wright. “Tonight that didn’t happen for us.”

Two Wildcats who continued to struggle were junior guard Corey Stokes and redshirt sophomore forward Taylor King. Stokes scored seven points but fouled out, and King was held scoreless for the second time in three games. The transfer from Duke is averaging only 4.8 points per game in conference play, but Wright is not worried.

“Shooters go through slumps,” Wright said. “For the last few games he hasn’t been making shots, but he’s been doing the little things. He’ll come around.”

With his team down by five late in the first half and his teammates in foul trouble, defending Big East Player of the Week Scottie Reynolds attempted to do what he has done so often for the Wildcats in his career: let his game take over.

Reynolds’ breakaway layup and transition-3 helped the Wildcats get back on track, and allowed the home team to tie the game back up.

Reynolds had 14 points in the first half, reversing the trend of saving his scoring bursts until late in the game. Unfortunately, he was not able to keep up the hot shooting and finished with 18 points for the game, just four of which came in the second half.

“They were always a step ahead,” Reynolds said. “They seemed like they were always in the right spot. Hats off to them for playing great defense.”

The ‘Cats were down 36-35 at halftime, and that was the closest they would get for the rest of the game.

After halftime, the Huskies raced out to a 51-44 lead and looked to be gaining the momentum necessary for the big-time upset.  The Huskies made their first six shots of the second half, and shot 67 percent in the period.

Midway through the second half, the game became a free-throw competition. For the game, the teams took a combined 64 shots from the free throw line, 44 of which came from the Huskies. 

But the most crucial foul call of the night may have come with 8:06 left in the game. Peña was whistled for his fourth foul on a questionable call that gave Gavin Edwards a one-and-one on the other end.  Edwards converted one to make it a nine point game, 63-54, while Peña was forced to sit for the next three minutes.

After an Edwards dunk made it an 11-point game with four minutes remaining, almost everyone at the Wachovia Center knew that the Wildcats only had one more chance to salvage the game.

Junior guard Corey Fisher converted a layup on the offensive end, but Peña’s fifth foul and subsequent ejection with 3:44 remaining gave the Huskies two more free throws and a chance to ice the game. Jerome Dyson hit both, and the Huskies never looked back. The ‘Cats’ offense continued to struggle and was unable to mount a comeback.

“They really played great team defense,” Wright said. “With that length, we’d beat one guy and the next guy would block the shot.”

The Wildcats will try to get back on the right track this Sunday on the road against Pittsburgh.