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Takeaways: Huskies close the regular season in peak form

UConn finished fourth in the Big East after winning eight of nine going into the conference tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Villanova Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 UConn men’s basketball closed out the regular season with a 71-59 victory over Villanova, pushing its winning streak to five straight and 10 of the last 12.

Tournament play awaits, as the Huskies (24-7, 13-7 Big East) finished fourth in the league and will face fifth-place Providence at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals.

Some thoughts after the regular season finale.

The defense is rounding into form

Shawn: The Huskies were active defensively, blocking five shots and grabbing seven steals while keeping Villanova from getting second- and third-chance opportunities. It was the second-least efficient offensive performance for the Wildcats of the year.

It was a middle-of-the-road efficiency performance for UConn, ranking 14th out of 31 games with an adjusted 90.6 points per 100 possession, according to KenPom, but this was partially due to a 12-18 performance from the line. However, the top-line numbers were great. Villanova was 13-27 on 2-pointers and just 7-28 from beyond the arc, with only 10 offensive rebounds on 35 misses.

This is now the second straight game and the fourth time out of six that UConn has surrendered an adjusted 93.0 points per 100 possessions or less. The cliche is always that defense travels and shooting can be a little more streaky. This can only help UConn as elimination play approaches.

UConn is beating up good teams

Aman: Over the last two months, UConn has beaten Marquette, the Big East regular-season champion, by 15, drop-kicked Providence by 18, and just casually trounced Villanova. The Huskies look like the same team that started the season 14-0, perhaps better in some ways, particularly the poise with which they’re playing.

Against Villanova, the Huskies held a double-digit lead for most of the second half. The Wells Fargo Center crowd cheered the Wildcats on as they cut the lead to single digits on a couple of occasions, but UConn responded with a quick bucket or a three to take the crowd back out of the game.

The Huskies were in complete control in a tough road environment against a team that’s better than its 16-15 record. While the Wildcats were not playing for much, they’d come into the contest on a winning streak of their own: three in a row and six of their last seven.

The Andre Jackson offensive lift

Aman: Jackson finding his way offensively has been a huge development for the Huskies alongside the relative consistency we’ve come to expect from Sanogo and Hawkins. Coaches and hoops analysts say that Jackson’s defense and playmaking are valuable beyond the stat sheet, but lately, he’s also been scoring more and doing it within the flow of the offense. In the last five games, he’s hit his career-high of 15 points twice while scoring in double-digits four times, after doing so four times across the entire rest of the season.

Hanging through a slump

Aman: Villanova had a run here and there, and UConn’s scoring leaders in Hawkins and Sanogo had quiet halves — Sanogo had zero points and four fouls in the second and Hawkins had five of his 24 in the first half. Tristen Newton and Alex Karaban stepped up in this game to make sure the Huskies were still putting points up while their stars temporarily struggled. Karaban’s 16 points came on an ultra-efficient 6-of-8 shooting performance that included hitting half of his four 3-point attempts while also grabbing six rebounds and dishing four assists.