Villanova Wildcats

Villanova beats UConn, puts an emphatic end to losing streak

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Villanova beats UConn, puts an emphatic end to losing streak

BOX SCORE 

NEW YORK — Jahvon Quinerly had waited all season to prove he could post solid stats instead of just alarming Instagram captions. He got his chance with an inadvertent whack on a Villanova teammate at practice.

Quinerly's elbow put a knot on Collin Gillespie's head during a drill that sidelined the starter and opened a spot in the rotation.

Quinerly had been benched, committed a social media fail and hardly played like a five-star recruit when he did get a chance for the Wildcats. Against UConn, Quinerly suddenly was a factor in ending a rare Villanova losing streak.

"You feel you can do more all the time," he said.

Quinerly had the steal of the game and scored 10 points in critical minutes, and the national champion Villanova Wildcats avoided their first three-game losing streak in nearly six years with an 81-58 win over Connecticut on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"He showed that he's been working at what we do even though he hasn't been playing," coach Jay Wright said.

Quinerly, a star recruit who originally committed to Arizona, has had a baffling freshman season. He struggled to get off the bench and missed a game with an injury. Quinerly played only seconds against Penn and was benched against Kansas days after writing an Instagram post criticizing his own program. He turned social media outbursts into highlight-reel bursts against the Huskies (9-4).

Quinerly quickly deleted an Instagram post that said "Was my 2nd choice for a reason" after the Penn loss. But social media users noticed and Quinerly later apologized on, yes, social media.

"It was a big mistake on my end," he said of the caption.

Wright turned the mistake into a teaching moment.

"I told him, I know that's frustration. I know it's not you," Wright said. "I knew he felt terrible."

Quinerly, who played 24 minutes, shot an airball and threw a pass straight into UConn's hands in the first half that might have earned him a spot on the bench had Gillespie not been out. He hit a 3 in the first half and had the game's spotlight "drive of the game" with a midcourt steal during a 19-0 run that he fed to Phil Booth for an easy basket.

He seemed at ease with the pressure off — when a corner 3 rattled around the rim before it trickled out, Quinerly smiled at the oh-so close attempt.

"I feel like the airball kind of helped me," he said. "I knew that I could keep playing after that. I couldn't let it affect me at all."

Eric Paschall scored 21 points and Booth had 18 for Villanova. The Wildcats (9-4) had been reeling with consecutive losses at college basketball's most renowned venues; against Penn at Philly's Palestra and to No. 1 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. The Huskies seemed primed to make it three straight holding a 36-35 lead at the Garden, where the Wildcats celebrated the last two Big East Tournament titles.

Unlike their recent defeats when they wilted down the stretch, Villanova flashed the horsepower of old and unleashed a 19-0 run that sent fans into a frenzy. Joe Cremo hit three 3s during the spurt that made it hard to believe this was the same program that already matched the season loss total from each of the last two seasons.

Cremo stepped into the starting lineup once Quinerly smacked Gillespie during a drill in practice on Thursday. Cremo, a graduate transfer from Albany, made the most of his new role.

The Wildcats hadn't lost three straight since January 2013 against Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Providence in the last season of the old Big East. The Wildcats have won two national titles since then and a loss here or there had seemed more like a minor inconvenience. But after losing four stars from last year's title team to the NBA, Villanova has struggled, though three losses have come to Top 25 teams.

Big picture

Villanova: Is Quinerly a permanent rotation player or was this a one-game wonder? More games like this one, and Quinerly may be the ball-handling guard who can create from the perimeter the Wildcats need.

UConn: Jalen Adams, who averaged 17.3 points, scored only eight and the Huskies had 17 turnovers.

"When things start going badly, you've got to get more determined," coach Dan Hurley said. "I don't think there's an area where we're necessarily excelling."

Christian Vital hit four 3s and scored 18 points for UConn.

The trilogy

The former Big East rivals wrap up their three-year series with a game next season in Philly.

Up next 

Villanova: Opens Big East play Jan. 2 at home against DePaul.

UConn: Hits the road to play Jan. 2 at USF in the AAC opener.

Edwards leads Purdue to rout of reigning champ Villanova

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Edwards leads Purdue to rout of reigning champ Villanova

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Carsen Edwards had a career night, scoring 42 points as Purdue knocked reigning national champion Villanova out of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night in an 87-61 rout.

Matt Haarms added 18 points and nine rebounds for the third-seeded Boilermakers (25-9), who advanced to their third straight Sweet 16.

Eric Paschall had 19 for Villanova (26-10), which saw its quest for a third national title in the last four seasons end during the tournament's first weekend. Fellow senior Phil Booth scored 15 points, putting him over 1,500 for his career.

Edwards has battled a sore back and had been in a recent shooting slump, making just 7 of 23 shots from the field in Purdue's first-round win over Old Dominion. He found the bottom of the net early and often against `Nova, making 12 of his 21 shots, including nine of 16 from behind the arc.

Purdue shot 54 percent while holding Villanova to just 20 baskets on 58 shots (34 percent).

Purdue jumped out early, building a 13-point lead thanks to Edwards' outside shooting and Haarms' work down low.

The 7-foot-3 Dutchman towered over the shorter Wildcats, who didn't start anyone over 6-8. He had Purdue's first four points on a dunk and a put-back. Edwards hit five of his nine first-half shots, all of which came from three-point range.

Purdue had nine three-point baskets in the first half and a dunk by Haarms put the Boilermakers up 43-24 at intermission.

Another dunk from the Dutchman extended the lead to 35 in the second half. Villanova chipped away but the sixth seeded Big East champions did not have weapons to make it a game.

Defending champion Villanova shows its experience in NCAA Tournament first-round win over Saint Mary's

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Defending champion Villanova shows its experience in NCAA Tournament first-round win over Saint Mary's

BOX SCORE

HARTFORD, Conn. — Villanova got off to a slow start in defense of its NCAA championship against a determined, defensive-minded Saint Mary's team that came in confident after a season-defining win.

But the Wildcats, a No. 6 seed in this NCAA Tournament after an up-and-down season, have one thing no team in the field of 64 has: a pair of leaders who have won two national titles.

 NPhil Booth scored 20 points, fellow senior Eric Paschell added 14 and Villanova held off 11th-seeded Saint Mary's 61-57 on Thursday night.

"We're growing, our young guys are growing, but we have two seniors who do everything for us, on and off the court," coach Jay Wright said. "We're just so lucky to have them."

Sophomore Jermaine Sameuls added 12 points for the Wildcats (26-9), who led for almost 33 minutes, but never by more than eight points.

"The tempo was excruciating," Wright said. "We felt going in we were going to have to grind with them."

The Gaels used the same slow pace to upset Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference Tournament, and it gave them a chance against Villanova (26-9) in a tense opening-round matchup.

Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts each had 13 points for Saint Mary's (22-12). Ford's basket in the lane after a few nifty moves got the Gaels within six points at 61-55 with 34 seconds left.

After Paschell missed a foul shot on the other end, Fitts cut the deficit to four points with a leaner in the lane. The Gaels had two more chances in the final seconds, but Fitts hit the rim on a 3-point attempt and Villanova freshman Saddiq Bey stole the ball from Ford in the final seconds to seal the win.

"We had a few games this year where we put the press on and were able to get back in the game," said Ford. "And if we get a few of those loose balls, or maybe make a three when we were down four, I think it's a different game."

Saint Mary's led 30-28 at the half, but Booth scored the first five points after intermission during a 12-3 run that put the Wildcats up 40-33. He had 12 points and five of his six assists in the second half.

"We weren't doing that bad, actually," Booth said. "It was more that they were playing very well and we were trying to match how they were bringing it. I think we just had to take it to another level, because they were playing at a high level."

Big picture

Villanova: The defending champions are in the tournament for the 14th time in 15 seasons and improved to 14-1 since 2016.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels are 4-6 in opening-round games in the NCAA Tournament and 5-10 overall. Saint Mary's has advanced to the Sweet 16 once in the modern era when it beat the Wildcats in 2010. There's a reminder of that run in the hallway outside the locker room that the players see as they walk out to practice each day in McKeon Pavilion.

Empty arena

The game tipped to a relatively empty arena, but it wasn't because nobody had bought tickets.

Fans of the Wildcats, many of whom made the 4-hour drive from Philadelphia to Hartford, Connecticut, were lined up along with Gaels fans behind metal detectors as security emptied the arena from the afternoon session.

"You worry about those things, you know?" Wright said. "We have a lot of guys in the NCAA Tournament for the first time thinking, `This is the NCAA Tournament?' There's no one in the stands."

By halftime, the 16,000-seat XL Center was nearing capacity, but some frustrated fans were sill filing in.

From distance

The game was billed as a battle between one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams in Villanova against some of the nation's best perimeter defenders. In the end, the Wildcats finished 8 of 20 from behind the arc, while Saint Mary's was 8 of 22.

On the boards

The taller Gaels won the rebounding battle 33-29 and 10-5 on the offensive end. The Wildcats didn't have an offensive board until the second half and that led to an 11-4 advantage for Saint Mary's in second-chance points. Wright said this year's team was hurt by the transfer of 6-foot-9 Dylan Painter, but is going to have to find a way against taller opponents.

Up next

Villanova will play No. 3 seed Purdue in the second round Saturday.