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UConn women’s basketball stunned by Villanova, 72-69

The Huskies’ furious comeback over the final four minutes came up short.

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma reacts during the loss to Villanova.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball lost their first conference game in nine years, falling to the Villanova Wildcats 72-69. The defeat snaps the Huskies’ streak of 169 consecutive wins versus conference foes, dating back to the 2013 Big East Tournament final against Notre Dame.

UConn made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter that ultimate fell short. Despite trailing by 16 with four minutes left, the Huskies got the deficit down to two with nine seconds left after four-straight missed three throws from Villanova. However, UConn couldn’t get a shot off with 2.1 seconds left following another Wildcats’ miss from the line.

The Huskies were without Carolina Ducharme (head) for a second consecutive game while Olivia Nelson-Ododa sat out as well. Though the senior was listed among the starters before the game, Evina Westbrook replaced her at the last second. SNY reported that Nelson-Ododa wasn’t feeling well prior to tip-off while Geno Auriemma did not provide any specifics postgame.

“Liv let us know after we put the names in the book (for the starting lineup) that she wasn’t going to be able to go today,” the coach said.

“She just said she couldn’t go,” he added later.

Fudd did all she could with a career-high 29 points — 13 of which came in the fourth quarter — while Williams had 24 points. No other Huskies had more than six points.

UConn was dominated defensively and on the glass. Villanova shot 52 percent from the field — including 10-22 from three — and out-rebounded the Huskies 37-21. Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhász each grabbed just one board. The Wildcats never trailed.

Without Nelson-Ododa, UConn fell face-first out of the gates. It made just three of its first 11 shots and had little flow on the offensive end. The Huskies also struggled with turnovers and coughed the ball up four times in the opening period.

On the other end, UConn’s defense was disorganized while Villanova simultaneously couldn’t miss. At one point in the first quarter, the Wildcats missed as many shots (10-13 shooting) as the Huskies made (3-11).

UConn fell behind by as many as 15 points before a strong close to the quarter in which it made its last three shots and forced Villanova to miss its final four shots cut the deficit to 10.

In the second quarter, the Huskies made early some headway with the first two baskets and got the gap down to five points a handful of times but couldn’t get any closer. Every time UConn made a shot, the Wildcats seemed to match it down the other end.

The Huskies only went into halftime down seven, but things started to spiral in the third quarter. UConn scored just one basket in the first five and a half minutes as Villanova stretched its lead to 11 points.

UConn’s defense couldn’t keep Villanova’s shooters off the 3-point line. After a triple from Williams got the Huskies back within six, the Wildcats pulled off a 16-3 run that featured four makes from beyond the arc that pushed the gap to 19 points.

Even when Williams and Fudd made big shots, Villanova just came back and scored down the other end without much trouble. After three quarters, UConn stared down a 17-point deficit.

The Huskies nearly pulled off the improbable comeback, but ultimately ran out of time.

With the loss, UConn falls to 15-5 on the season and 9-1 in Big East play. Next, the Huskies will face the DePaul Blue Demons on Friday at Gampel Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. EST on SNY.