Jalen Brunson led all scorers with 23 points and Donte DiVincenzo added 17 off the bench to power No. 1 Villanova in a rout of former Big East rival Connecticut 81-61 on Saturday afternoon at the XL Center in Hartford.
Villanova (18-1) won its fifth straight game after a 101-93 setback at Butler on Dec. 30 knocked it from the nation’s No. 1 ranking. The Wildcats returned to the top spot one week later and haven’t lost since.
Brunson, the team’s leading scorer, made five 3-pointers and finished 9 of 16 from the field. Omari Spellman was one of three Villanova players with nine points and also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Wildcats won despite shooting just 41.2 percent (28 of 68) from the field, thanks in part to their 15-of-40 (37.5 percent) marksmanship from long distance.
Jalen Adams had 19 points to pace Connecticut (10-9), which lost its second straight and has now dropped six of its last nine.
Christian Vital finished with 15 points and Josh Carlton nearly logged a double-double with 13 points and nine boards for the scuffling Huskies.
The Huskies’ struggles this season have placed coach Kevin Ollie on the hot seat. ESPN reported that XL Center security confiscated a fan’s sign that said “Fire Ollie” during the game.
Ollie’s team was held to 34.4 percent shooting (21 of 61) and was outrebounded 48-32.
Villanova ended the first half on a furious 18-2 surge to grab a 39-18 lead.
The Huskies flirted with their worst-ever loss to their old rival as they fell behind even further in the second half, but managed to outscore the Wildcats 43-42 in the period to avoid that embarrassment.
That loss came on Feb. 18, 1995 when then top-ranked Connecticut fell 96-73 at home to a 15th-ranked Villanova team.
Providence will be the next team trying to knock off the top-ranked Wildcats when it visits Villanova on Tuesday. Connecticut is off until next Sunday when it visits Temple.
— Field Level Media