Big East heavyweights collide, as Villanova takes on UConn
(Sports Network) – The eyes of the college basketball world will be on
today’s highly-anticipated Big East Conference rematch between the
second-ranked Villanova Wildcats and third-ranked Connecticut Huskies. These
two giants met in Philadelphia just a couple of weeks ago, and although then-
top-ranked UConn held a double-digit lead in the second half, Villanova
fought back to earn a thrilling 69-64 victory. The Wildcats sit alone atop
the Big East standings with a stellar 12-1 record, and they carry an 11-
game win streak into this clash. Their last defeat came against national
powerhouse Texas on the road, and they showed a great deal of heart in
their most recent win, a 74-72 decision at Cincinnati on Wednesday.
As for UConn, it has put together back-to-back wins since losing to
Villanova and can pull into a first-place tie with a victory today. After
knocking off a talented West Virginia team on the road, the Huskies recorded
a closer-than-expected 75-74 victory over Notre Dame in overtime earlier
this week. While they were far from dominant at home in that clash, it is
important to point out that the Fighting Irish have seemingly played every
opponent tough this season. The all-time series between these two schools
leans in favor of the Wildcats, 30-25.
The fact that Villanova has four guards in its starting lineup makes it truly
unique, and the fact that all four can take over a game makes the ‘Cats one of
the truly elite teams in not only the Big East, but the nation as well. Randy
Foye has emerged as a star this season, as he is scoring a team-high 20.3 ppg
to go along with 5.5 rpg. Allan Ray isn’t far behind with 18.9 ppg, and he is
a 90 percent shooter from the foul line. Kyle Lowry adds 11.6 ppg to the mix,
and he paces the club with 93 assists and 55 steals. Rounding out the foursome
is Mike Nardi with 11.5 ppg for ‘Nova, which is scoring 75.6 ppg while
surrendering just 62.7 ppg to opponents.
In the two-point win over Cincinnati last time out, Foye shined with 25
points and 14 rebounds. Ray contributed 19 points and Lowry netted 11 points
for the Wildcats, who limited the Bearcats to 36.2 percent shooting from
the floor. Villanova also earned a 42-37 rebounding advantage, as the
squad continues to play tough on the boards despite a lack of size.
UConn improved to 14-0 at home with the win over Notre Dame earlier this week,
and while the Huskies got contributions from several players, Marcus Williams
stole most of the headlines by recording a triple-double. The talented point
guard played 42 of a possible 45 minutes and finished with 18 points, 13
assists and 10 rebounds. He got help from Rudy Gay (17 points), Josh Boone (12
points, 14 rebounds) and Hilton Armstrong (11 points, nine rebounds, seven
blocks), three players who form arguably the best frontcourt in all of college
basketball. The Huskies won the game despite a 1-of-7 effort from the floor in
the overtime period.
Five players are averaging double figures in scoring for UConn, which is
netting 81.4 ppg while limiting opponents to 64.2 ppg on 37.3 percent
shooting from the field. Gay is averaging 16.0 ppg and 6.8 rpg, while Rashad
Anderson adds 13.5 ppg off the bench. Williams is contributing 10.5 ppg and
has 125 assists against 54 turnovers, and Boone adds 10.5 ppg and 7.0 rpg.
Armstrong rounds out the group with 10.0 ppg and leads the team with 82 blocks
as well — the three front line starters have combined for 187 rejections.