Connecticut-Villanova Preview

Connecticut-Villanova Preview

Published Feb. 14, 2010 4:23 p.m. ET

Prior to the start of the season, Villanova and Connecticut were expected to contend for the Big East crown. Only one is still in the race.

The fourth-ranked Wildcats look to continue their pursuit of a second conference championship in five years Monday night when they host a scuffling Huskies team trying to avoid losing for the sixth time in seven games.

Villanova (22-2, 11-1) defeated Providence 92-81 on Saturday and took a half-game lead atop the conference with second-ranked Syracuse's home loss to Louisville on Sunday. The Wildcats haven't won the league since sharing the regular season title with Connecticut in 2005-06.

In the Big East preseason poll released in October, Villanova was selected to win the conference, while the Huskies were picked to finish third. UConn (14-11, 4-8) is going to have a tough time finishing in the top half of the Big East, however.


The Huskies have lost eight of 11 and are coming off an awful performance in coach Jim Calhoun's first game on the sidelines in 3 1/2 weeks.

In need of a win to help their already slim NCAA tournament chances, UConn shot a season-low 34.6 percent in Saturday's 60-48 loss to Cincinnati, its lowest point total since 2002. Connecticut's three big men, Ater Majok, Alex Oriakhi and Charles Okwandu, combined for zero points and six rebounds, as the Huskies lost for the fifth time in six games.

"I thought it was one of the worst performances I've had here at UConn in 24 years,'' said Calhoun, who had been sidelined with an undisclosed medical condition since Jan. 19. "I'm really incredibly disappointed by the performance, and I'm embarrassed by it, quite frankly.''

The Huskies cannot afford another sluggish offensive performance, as Villanova has the nation's second-ranked scoring offense, averaging 85.4 points. The Wildcats have scored at least 80 points in each of their last nine games, topping the 90-point mark in five of those contests.

The Huskies will likely have a tough time keeping up with this potent offense. They haven't scored more than 69 in any of their past six games, and are 2-11 when failing to reach the 70-point mark this season.

Scottie Reynolds leads Villanova's high-powered offense, averaging 19.0 points - fourth-best in the Big East.

He scored 17 of his 22 points in the final 20 minutes Saturday, and has bailed out the Wildcats time and again with impressive second-half scoring surges. In last Monday's 82-75 win over No. 5 West Virginia, Reynolds scored 19 of his 21 points in the final 13 minutes.

"I don't want it to always be, Scottie will get us going,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "But I'm glad we have that. That's something I always have in the back of my mind.''

If Reynolds can score 20 points against the Huskies - a mark he's reached in each of his last three games - he'll move into third place on the Wildcats' all-time scoring list. He needs 169 points to take over Kerry Kittles' mark of 2,243 points to become the school's all-time leading scorer.

Reynolds finished with 14 points on 4 of 11 shooting in Villanova's last game against UConn, an 89-83 loss to the-then third-ranked Huskies in Hartford last January.

A rematch at the Wachovia Center doesn't bode well for UConn, which has lost seven straight road games since a 93-82 win over then-No. 8 Marquette on Feb. 25, 2009.

Villanova, meanwhile, is outscoring its opponents by an average of 18.6 points in winning all 11 home games this season.