Reynolds, ‘Nova show some forty-tude

Kyle Scudilla

Scottie Reynolds knocked on the door of surpassing his career high of 27 points pretty loudly in Villanova’s last two games, but stopped short by two points each time.

The star freshman blew past that total on Wednesday night, and his Wildcats (20-9, 8-7 Big East) needed every one of his 40 points to knock off the Connecticut Huskies (17-12, 6-9) by a final score of 78-74 in what proved to be a difficult road contest. The win marked just the second time Villanova won at the Gampel Pavilion.

Reynolds’ point total set numerous marks, including the most ever by a Villanova freshman and the most points by a visiting player at the Gampel Pavilion. The guard also became the first Wildcat to hit the 40-point plateau since Kerry Kittles did so in 1995. He made 12 of his 25 field goal attempts including six three-pointers.

Villanova led by six at the half, paced by Reynolds’ 20 points in the first half. The ‘Cats then jumped out to a 10-0 run early in the second half, but the Huskies, down by as much as 12 points, refused to go away. Forward Jeff Adrien and guard Jerome Dyson each scored 20 points for UConn and helped get the Villanova lead down to a single point with 2:27 remaining in the game. The two Huskies paired to chip away at the lead, hitting a number of clutch shots in front of an enthusiastic home crowd that hasn’t had much to cheer about since Connecticut’s tailspin following an 11-0 start.

A huge rebound and put back by Curtis Sumpter off a missed three-pointer by Reynolds put the ‘Cats up by three, a key play in holding off the Huskies down the stretch. Two more scores from Reynolds and clutch free throws by Sumpter and Shane Clark helped seal the deal for Villanova, who guaranteed having a conference record no worse than .500, which many considered important for its NCAA Tournament resume.

The Wildcats fought through near-crippling foul trouble throughout the game to come away with the victory. Much of the second half was played with Sumpter, Dante Cunningham, and Will Sheridan in foul trouble. Sheridan fouled out with more than nine minutes remaining, Cunningham fouled out three minutes remaining and Reynolds picked up a few quick fouls at the end of the game and exited in the final minute. In total, Villanova was called for 31 personal fouls in the game, leading to 44-31 edge for Connecticut in free throw attempts. UConn spoiled its numerous opportunities at the line, converting just 24 (54.5 percent) of its tries from the charity stripe.

Sumpter was able to give a solid effort despite having to be concerned with the foul trouble, posting 18 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Nardi was the third Wildcat in double figures with 12 points, thanks in part to a perfect 6-for-6 performance from the free-throw line. Outside of Reynolds, Sumpter and Nardi, the team scored just eight points, but did manage to help in other ways. Sheridan had a game-high four steals and Casiem Drummond, who helped out the depleted frontcourt, grabbed five rebounds in just 15 minutes of action.

Craig Austrie chipped in 10 points for Connecticut who, barring a miraculous Big East Tournament run, is out of the consideration for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Adrien finished with a double-double, snatching 10 rebounds to go along with his 20 points. Center Haseem Thabeet added seven points and nine rebounds and guard A.J. Price had a game-high seven assists.