- Aug 26, 2011
STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Forget revenge or first place. The one thing that kept coming up after Connecticut (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP) beat No. 2 Villanova was toughness.
After the Huskies' 89-75 victory Sunday left everybody in Gampel Pavilion drained whether they played or watched, coaches and players talked about the attitude and style that has become the trademark of the Big East.
"This was an advertisement for how hard the teams in this league play," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "Increasing our toughness was one thing I thought we had to do. We knew we could score, but we had to show we could come up with that kind of game like we had other times this season."
And it wasn't Connecticut's stars who let the Huskies avenge the loss that knocked them from No. 1 and moved them into a tie for first in the conference.
Denham Brown, Rashad Anderson, Hilton Armstrong and Jeff Adrien all came up big for Connecticut 13 days after Villanova beat the Huskies 69-64 in Philadelphia.
"This game was really a big game for us, a statement," Adrien said. "They got real happy after that first win and we had to shut their mouths. Today we had to go out there and show them we're not what they think we are. We are men out there."
The Huskies (25-2, 12-2) took control of this game with an 18-3 run in the second half.
Brown, a senior swingman, had a career-high 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting. He had a total of 18 points in the Huskies' last three games, the first of which was the loss to Villanova (22-3, 12-2) that ended an 11-game winning streak.
The Wildcats came into this game with 11 straight wins.
"We're tougher than a lot of people give us credit for," Brown said. "This was a game we had a bull's eye on for the last two weeks."
Anderson, the leading non-starting scorer in the country at 13.5 points per game, had 17 points and was 5-for-7 from 3-point range.
Armstrong, the senior center who anchors the best shot-blocking team in the nation, had nine points and eight of the Huskies' 11 blocked shots.
Then there was Adrien, the freshman forward, who had eight points and nine rebounds and came up with several big plays in the game-breaking run.
"All of a sudden the game changed when Jeff Adrien got in it," Calhoun said. "That was something for a freshman to express his emotion the way he did."
Allan Ray had 19 points for Villanova, but the senior guard left the game with just under 3 minutes to play with an injury to his left knee. He was taken to the locker room and came back with his knee wrapped in ice.
Ray, who said he slipped on a wet spot, said he would have an MRI on Monday. But he walked out of Gampel Pavilion with a wrap on his knee and without a limp.
"They were on the top of every aspect of their game," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We will learn from this. You've got to beat the best team in their own house."
Randy Foye added 18 points for the Wildcats and Mike Nardi had 14. Will Sheridan, the star of Villanova's win over UConn with 13 points and 10 rebounds, had nine points and 11 rebounds. All but one of his rebounds was on the offensive end where Villanova had 24 of its 38 rebounds.
"We pretty much expected it," Sheridan said of the physical game. "UConn comes out and plays hard every night. So do we. We knew it was going to be a battle. I felt it was like two of the top teams in the Big East going at it."
The Huskies shot 54.5 percent for the game (30-for-55), including 68.2 percent in the second half (15-for-22).
Ray made two free throws after he was fouled by Armstrong on a breakaway midway through the second half. The foul was called intentional and Ray scored on a drive on the ensuing possession for a 54-53 lead with 10:45 to go.
Ray picked up his fourth foul 25 seconds later and that's when the Huskies started their big run.
Anderson hit two 3s and Adrien had two baskets, the second on an offensive rebound, a big steal that led to the first of Anderson's 3s and a defensive rebound that he snatched away from three Villanova players on the Wildcats' third shot of a possession.
"That was some rebound," Calhoun said. "There wasn't anybody who was going to take that ball from him."
Brown's three-point play on a fast-break dunk capped the run and gave Connecticut a 71-57 lead with 5:15 to go.
"Plays like that have to be made by myself to get the team and the crowd going," Brown said.
Calhoun called it a statement play.
"Sometimes a dunk isn't always worth just two points," he said.
Marcus Williams, who was coming off a triple-double in the win over Notre Dame, had 10 points and 12 assists for Connecticut, while Rudy Gay had 13 points and seven rebounds.
The win improved Connecticut to 9-1 this season against ranked teams, the lone loss to Villanova.
There is the possibility the teams could meet again, maybe in the Big East tournament or in the NCAAs.
"The only place down the road I want to see them is in Indianapolis at the Final Four," Calhoun said. "They come loaded and knock you down. That is a great team with heart."
"I really don't want to see them again but if we play them again it will be a big game," he said.