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No. 6 UConn women’s basketball beats No. 14 Villanova, 60-51

The Huskies put in one of their best defensive efforts of the season to earn an important conference victory.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

No. 6 UConn women’s basketball survived a 60-51 road test against the Villanova Wildcats Saturday at Finneran Pavilion.

Despite totaling more turnovers (22) than made field goals (20), the Huskies led wire-to-wire. Their defense carried them as they held Villanova star Maddy Siegrist to 21 points, tying her season-low, while the Wildcats shot 33 percent overall and made just five of 25 three-point attempts.

Lou Lopez Sénéchal led all scorers with 22 points, nine in the fourth quarter. Dorka Juhász (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Aaliyah Edwards (13 points, 14 rebounds) each finished with double-doubles as well.

Both sides made 20 shots, but UConn went 17-of-26 from the free throw line while Villanova made just 6-of-12.

UConn struggled out of the gate, turning the ball over on its first two possessions and starting 1-of-3 from the floor. Then, the Huskies flipped a switch, making nine of their next 10, and scored with ease — especially down low.

UConn led by as many as nine in the first, but Villanova scored the final five points of the quarter to get back within four.

Then, the Huskies’ second-quarter troubles returned. After putting up 19 points through the first 10 minutes, they managed just nine in the second and committed seven turnovers — as many as they had in their last game.

With the offense scuffling, the Husky defense stepped up, holding Villanova to three field goals in the quarter and just 11 points overall. The Wildcats pulled even thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers, but UConn didn’t allow another point for nearly the final two minutes and went into the half up 28-26.

Villanova tied it again midway through the third quarter and had chances to take its first lead of the day, but it never happened. The Huskies did just enough to stay ahead — boosted by four points late in the period by Caroline Ducharme — went into the fourth quarter up by five.

Lopez Sénéchal opened the fourth quarter with five straight points to give the Huskies their first double-digit lead of the day at 10 before Juhász got the lead to 12.

The Wildcats wouldn’t go down quietly, mounting a 10-0 run to pull back within two points with four minutes left, but Edwards scored a tough bucket in the lane to keep UConn ahead. Once again, Villanova got the deficit to one possession, but Lopez Sénéchal hit an off-balance jumper to push the gap back to five points with a minute left.

After the Wildcats missed a pair of free throws down the other end, Lopez Sénéchal drained a pair of free throws to put the Huskies up 58-51 with 46.4 left and set the stage for the nine-point win.

With the win, the Huskies have all but locked up the Big East regular season title. They now have a two-game lead on the Wildcats with just three games remaining and hold the tiebreaker over Villanova as well.

Next, UConn will begin its final stretch of the regular season with St. John’s on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. from the XL Center on SNY.