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UConn women’s basketball blows out Villanova, 90-52

After a slow start, the Huskies locked down defensively and cruised to an easy victory.

Gabe Rhodes

UConn women’s basketball used a strong second half to blow out the Villanova Wildcats, 90-52. The Huskies improve to 5-0 on the season and 4-0 in Big East play.

UConn limited Villanova star Maddy Siegrist to just two points in the final two quarters and 15 points on 6-20 shooting overall.

Paige Bueckers tied Olivia Nelson-Ododa for the team lead the Huskies with 19 points while also chipping in five assists and six rebounds. Nelson-Ododa’s 19 points came on 7-9 shooting in just 23 minutes as she sat on the bench for most of the second and fourth quarters with foul trouble.

Christyn Williams finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while Evina Westbrook had 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

“This was Evina’s best game, by far, since she’s been here,” Geno Auriemma said postgame. “She hasn’t played in a long time. We’re gonna ask her to play 30+ minutes for sure because we’re down two players and I thought she was outstanding. I thought this was by far her best game in every category.”

Aaliyah Edwards sat out after spraining her right ankle in practice yesterday according to SNY, but isn’t expected to miss more time.

Villanova scored the first bucket of the game, which put UConn behind for the first time all season. The two teams traded baskets and the lead before the Huskies scored eight straight points to give themselves a cushion.

UConn struggled to shoot in the opening minutes and threw up a few airballs, but had its way with Villanova down low. In the first quarter, all but one of the Huskies’ field goals came in the paint.

However, UConn lost its size advantage less than a minute into the second quarter when Nelson-Ododa picked up her second foul and promptly went to the bench. The Wildcats responded by getting within a point twice, but couldn’t re-take the lead.

UConn used a 7-0 run to give itself some breathing room before Villanova’s Sarah Mortensen answered with five-straight points to get it back to a one-score game.

But after 17 minutes in which the Huskies struggled to do much of anything to slow down the Wildcats’ offense, UConn’s defense clamped down and held the hosts without a basket for the final 3:28 of the half. The Huskies scored the final 10 points before the break and went into the locker room with their largest lead of the game to that point, 42-29.

UConn’s burst at the end of the second quarter proved to be a just a preview of what was to come in the third. After a quick bucket from Siegrist, the Huskies went on another 10-0 run with Nelson-Ododa scoring eight of those points. Villanova scored just eight points the entire third quarter.

UConn continued to build its lead by making life miserable for the Wildcats offense and never allowed them to re-find their flow from the first quarter. In the second half, Villanova made just eight baskets and shot 23.5 percent. The Huskies closed out the Wildcats with a 15-3 run to secure the 38-point victory.

After the game, Auriemma said he expects Nika Muhl and Edwards to be back for UConn’s next game against DePaul on Dec. 29. Muhl injured her left foot in preseason and needed time off to let it heal while Edwards rolled her ankle in practice the day before the game.

“[Muhl will] be good to go barring any unforeseen circumstances,” Auriemma said. “I’m guessing that you know between now and when we get back for practice again on the 26th, [Edwards is] going to be 100% ready to go. So I expect to have everybody ready for DePaul.”

Next, UConn will have a week off for Christmas before it returns to action at home against DePaul on Dec. 29. No start time has been announced but SNY will carry the game.