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UConn women’s basketball outlasts Villanova, 63-58

A visibly exhausted Huskies squad fought back from a fourth-quarter deficit to pull off the victory in Hartford.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball earned one of its toughest victories of the season, surviving an upset bid from the No. 21 Villanova Wildcats to win 63-58 at the XL Center on Sunday afternoon.

The Huskies trailed entering the fourth quarter but scored 18 of the game’s final 25 points to come out on top. Dorka Juhász hit a 3-pointer with 1:44 left to put UConn ahead and the team never looked back.

Aubrey Griffin led the Huskies with 19 points, five of which came in the fourth quarter. Juhász finished with 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds while Aaliyah Edwards had 13 points and six rebounds — including the game-clinching rebound and free throws.

Villanova star Maddy Siegrist had 25 points while Lucy Olsen poured in 19. No one else on the Wildcats finished with more than six.

UConn got off to a fast start, using a 9-0 run to take the lead after Villanova opened the game with a 3-pointer. The Huskies held at least a two-possession advantage for most of the first quarter and were up by eight through 10 minutes.

Then, just like Thursday, fatigue set in and UConn dealt with another second-quarter swoon. The Wildcats scored the first seven points while the Huskies didn’t find the basket for nearly four minutes. Turnovers hurt UConn, coughing the ball up seven times in the second quarter, and the team also looked tired due to its compacted schedule and short rotation.

The Huskies also made uncharacteristic mistakes — especially defensively and on the boards.

The visitors got within one, but Griffin led a stretch where UConn scored eight of the game’s next 10 points. That proved to be the Huskies’ only offense of the quarter, though. Villanova closed the half with four straight points and UConn went into the locker room clinging to a three-point lead.

The third quarter was looking bleak. Villanova took the lead as UConn missed its first 10 shots from the field. In that span, Nova scored eight straight points. Griffin finally got the Huskies on the board with a pair of free throws with 3:33 left in the quarter followed by a reverse layup from Mühl for their first field goal. Though it was worse early on, UConn still trailed by two after three quarters.

The Huskies finally pulled back ahead five minutes into the fourth quarter. Aubrey Griffin tied the game on a pair of free throws then gave her side the lead with an and-one layup with 3:48 left. Villanova tied it shortly afterward on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Lucy Olsen, but Juhász put UConn back ahead with a triple of her own with 1:44 to go.

The Huskies eventually pushed the gap to five points with 31.7 left, though a jump ball gave possession back to the Wildcats. On the ensuing trip, Olsen hit a three for Villanova to cut UConn’s lead down to 60-58 with 21.9 remaining.

After a timeout, the Huskies nearly turned the ball over again after a few shaky passes — one of which required a save from Juhász to avoid going backcourt — but they eventually got it to Edwards in the post, who was fouled.

However, she only made 1-of-2 from the line to keep it a one-possession game at 61-58.

Villanova couldn’t capitalize. Both Siegrist and Olsen missed 3-pointers in the final seconds and Edwards came up with a rebound and got fouled with 1.7 left. This time, she hit both free throws to seal UConn’s five-point victory.

The Huskies improve to 20-2 on the season and 12-0 in Big East play. Next up, they’ll travel to Providence on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. game that will be televised on SNY.