NCAA Basketball

No. 8 Villanova faces No. 21 UConn with eye on Big East title

Justin Moore didn't let a bad shooting half dictate the rest of his game on Saturday.

The Villanova junior scored 15 of his team-high 19 points on the second half to help the No. 8-ranked Wildcats hold off an upset bid by Georgetown and claim a 74-66 home win to extend their win streak to five games.

Moore will hope for a quicker start on Tuesday night when Villanova travels to Hartford, Conn., for a matchup with No. 21 UConn.

The Wildcats (21-6, 14-3 Big East) can't afford a stumble if they want to overtake Providence for another regular-season conference title. They got away with one against the Hoyas, who haven't won a conference game yet.

A big reason Villanova pulled off the victory was that Moore went from hitting 1 of 9 first half shots to sinking 5 of 7 after intermission.

"Justin had great looks in the first half and just missed," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "But he stayed confident in the second half."

Moore confirmed his coach's analysis.

"Nothing changed for me," Moore said. "I got the looks I wanted in the first half, they just didn't go in. I stayed aggressive and my teammates still found me in the right spots. I just took the shots they gave me."

The Wildcats also got 11 points from Brandon Slater, plus 10 each from Eric Dixon and reserve Caleb Daniels. That was more than enough to offset a 2 for 10 effort from the field and just nine points from leading scorer Collin Gillespie, although he did contribute 10 rebounds and five assists.

Gillespie has scored 16.6 points per game thanks largely to 42.7 percent accuracy from 3-point range. He also paces the team in assists with 2.9 per game. Moore chips in 15.5 points and Jermaine Samuels contributes 10.1.

UConn (19-7, 10-5) is coming off a 72-61 home win Saturday against Xavier. The Huskies established a 17-point halftime lead, giving them the necessary cushion to hold off the Musketeers' second-half run.

"To have a dominant first half performance against a team of that caliber ... those guys are incredibly hard to beat," UConn coach Dan Hurley said of Xavier.

The Huskies used balanced scoring to get the job done, getting 16 points each from R.J. Cole and reserve Tyler Polley, plus 15 points and nine rebounds from Adama Sanogo. They rattled off a 14-2 run over the final four minutes of the first half to stretch their advantage to 44-27, then survived a 21-8 spurt by the Musketeers to open the second half.

Tyrese Martin, who grabbed 11 rebounds, said that his team's maturity helped it weather Xavier's run.

"We were able to face that adversity and just get tighter together and play that way the rest of the game," Martin said.

Cole has been UConn's top scorer and assist man this year with 16.2 points and 4.3 assists, while Sanogo has carried the load inside with 15.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. Martin contributes 13.7 points while shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range.

The teams met on Feb. 5 at Philadelphia and Villanova captured an 85-74 victory behind 24 points and 12 rebounds from Dixon.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 21, 2022

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