It certainly appeared that Villanova was going to lose a non-conference game against Maryland on Saturday, as the Wildcats trailed by double figures in the second half. That's when they went on an improbable 19-0 run en route to a 74-66 victory over the Terps. Villanova is now 16-1 overall, including 4-0 in Big East action, and the team has won its last 11 games.
UConn's current winning streak is far less impressive than that of Villanova, but the Huskies have won three in a row nonetheless to improve to 14-2 overall and 3-2 in conference. DePaul was no match for the Huskies on Saturday, as Jim Calhoun's squad rolled to an 82-62 triumph. Expect a confident group of Huskies today, as they are a perfect 9-0 at home thus far.
Villanova owns a 32-28 series advantage over Connecticut, but the Huskies have won the last two meetings.
There is no doubt that a 43-33 rebounding advantage played a major role in the victory for Villanova over Maryland on Saturday. The Wildcats held a 17-10 edge on the offensive glass, and a 15-10 advantage in points from the foul line also helped the cause. Maalik Wayns came through with 22 big points for 'Nova in the triumph, and fellow guard Corey Fisher tallied 17 points and five assists. Antonio Pena managed 14 points and 10 boards, and it is impressive that the 'Cats were able to win the game despite 12 combined points from star guard Corey Stokes and center Mouphtaou Yarou. To his credit, Yarou did have 12 boards, while reserve Isaiah Armwood grabbed 13 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. Overall this season, Stokes is averaging 16.5 ppg on the strength of his 44.9 percent shooting from three-point range. Fisher isn't far behind with 15.4 ppg, while Wayns rounds out arguably the nation's best backcourt with 13.8 ppg and 94 assists. The Wildcats are generating 77.6 ppg while surrendering 62.0 ppg to opponents on 38.6 percent field goal efficiency.
No player in the nation is more important to his team than Kemba Walker is to UConn. The standout guard has led the Huskies in scoring in all 16 games thus far and he is averaging 25.6 ppg to go along with other team-highs of 60 assists and 37 steals. The only other double-digit scorer in the fold is Alex Oriakhi, who checks in with 10.9 ppg and 9.2 rpg. Oriakhi is shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and he has blocked 38 shots. The Huskies are posting 76.6 ppg, and they have been able to limit opponents to 38.1 percent field goal efficiency and 64.5 ppg. Strong defense was again the key against DePaul, as UConn limited the Blue Demons to 31.9 percent field goal efficiency. The Huskies, who shot 50.9 percent at the offensive end, got a 31-point effort from Walker. Fellow guard Jeremy Lamb pitched in 13 points, and Oriakhi tallied 11 points from his center position.
Villanova is the more balanced of these two teams, and while Walker is a sensational talent, his Huskies won't have enough firepower to fend off the Wildcats.
GAME NOTES: The Villanova Wildcats and Connecticut Huskies will do battle today in what promises to be a close Big East Conference contest from start to finish.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Harry A. Gampel Pavilion (10,027) -- Storrs, Connecticut. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Villanova 11-0, UConn 9-0. Away Record: Villanova 4-0, UConn 2-2. Neutral Record: Villanova 1-1, UConn 3-0. Conference Record: Villanova 4-0, UConn 3-2. Series Record: Villanova leads, 32-28.