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UConn absolutely flops at Villanova, losing 85-74

The Huskies had a chance to make a statement but failed to answer the call.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Villanova Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

The UConn Huskies traveled to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia but did not bring their A-game, or even their B-game. Dan Hurley’s squad lost 85-74 as the Huskies fall to 15-6 and 6-4 in the Big East. This is the largest margin of defeat for UConn all season.

The game got off to a normal start, perhaps some might even say a positive one for UConn. Tyrese Martin scored the game’s first five points but Villanova got back into it quickly. The first 10 minutes had the makings of a classic Big East slugfest but, once again, UConn’s shots stopped falling, the offensive strategy deteriorated, and an experienced, well-coached Villanova team took advantage.

Isaiah Whaley and Adama Sanogo got two early fouls, sending both to the bench for large chunks of the first half. During that time, Villanova’s big man Eric Dixon feasted, scoring 14 points in the first half. He finished with 24. The Wildcats pulled away in the back end of the first half, taking a 40-29 lead into the break. They shot 56 percent from the field (UConn shot 36 percent) and 50 percent from 3-point range in the first half while hitting 9-of-9 from the free-throw line. They finished the game shooting 59.2% from the field.

It did not get much better from there. The second half featured more of the same and a UConn team that resigned itself to a loss in this really big game. The deficit grew to over 20 at one point. UConn mounted a 12-2 run to close in, but it was too little, too late. At least the final score wasn’t totally embarrassing.

RJ Cole led the Huskies with 24 points and, as in many previous games, was the only UConn player dependably creating offensively. Martin and Sanogo scored 14 points each but Sanogo was scoreless in the first half. The Huskies finished a solid 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc but most of those shots started falling with UConn down big.

For the first time this season, UConn didn’t show up for a big game. After five losses by four points or less, the Huskies looked like they didn’t belong on the floor against a quality team. But Villanova is no juggernaut and the Huskies have struggled in their last few games, including against DePaul and Creighton.

Sometimes teams are in a funk. Other times something else is up. This team’s inability to run a competent offense for 40 minutes and lack of consistency from experienced players are problems that may not go away. The rest of the schedule from here on out is a gauntlet, something needs to change if UConn’s going to end the season on a strong note.

Next up, the Huskies are hosting Marquette, a surging squad that is currently ranked 26th in KenPom and third in the Big East standings, just ahead of fourth-place UConn. The game will be played at the XL Center at 6:30 p.m. and televised on FS1.