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UConn women’s basketball defeats Villanova to win Big East Tournament championship

The Huskies punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 70-40 win over the Wildcats.

The 2021-22 Big East Tournament Champions!!
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball defeated the Villanova Wildcats to claim its 20th Big East Tournament championship and 27th conference tournament crown overall.

Christyn Williams was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after averaging 12.3 points across the three games — including nine in the championship — and helped the Huskies get off to a fast start each game.

Aaliyah Edwards and Evina Westbrook both made the all-tournament team. Edwards had 12 points and six rebounds in the win to go with 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game across the weekend while Westbrook finished with a team-high 13 points on Monday to go with four rebounds and three assists — averaging 10.7 points, 3.3 rebound and 2.7 assists in the tournament.

Continuing a trend from the first two games of the tournament, UConn jumped out to quick start at Mohegan Sun Arena. The Huskies defense forced a turnover on half of Villanova’s first six possessions and scored off each one. Williams hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 9-0, which prompted the Wildcats to take a timeout.

The break did enough to cool UConn off and gave Villanova an opening back into the game. Brianna Herlihy hit a 3-pointer to get the Wildcats on the board and shortly afterwards, they used a 5-0 run to cut the Huskies’ lead down to five.

Despite the advantage, turnovers plagued UConn in the first half with 10 before the midway mark of the second quarter. The Huskies’ defense consistently bailed them out as they forced nine turnovers themselves and held Villanova to just 18 first half points.

Despite the sloppy performance, UConn opened the second quarter on a 12-2 run and took a 15-point lead into the locker room.

Out of the break, the Wildcats looked like they’d made it a game in the second half. They started out on a 5-1 run to get within 11 points but then, the Huskies made their run. Edwards and Nelson-Ododa made back-to-back layups, the first of seven straight points. After a 3-pointer from Villanova stopped the bleeding, UConn came back with another eight points in a row.

The Huskies led by 23 after three quarters and doubled the Wildcats up 52-26 a minute into the fourth quarter en route to a 30-point victory.

After being out-rebounded 37-21 in the loss to Villanova on Feb. 9, UConn won the rebounding battle 39-17 on Monday. Paige Bueckers played just eight minutes in the victory after playing 18 minutes each in the first two games.

With the win, UConn has now claimed a combined 55 conference regular season and tournament championships. The Huskies have won both titles each of the last nine years. UConn also officially punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament and will learn its path to a 12th national championship on Sunday, March 13.