Jermaine Samuels scored a game-high 19 points on Saturday, including a pair of critical buckets in the final three minutes, as No. 14 Villanova rallied to subdue Connecticut 61-55 in a nonconference game in Philadelphia.
Samuels put the Wildcats (14-3) ahead to stay on a three-point play with 2:59 left in the game, then applied the back-breaker when he drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 31.2 seconds remaining that made it 57-53.
Collin Gillespie added 12 for Villanova, which made just 38.8 percent of its shots but went 11 of 23 from the 3-point line and earned a 23-4 advantage in points off turnovers. Freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl chipped in 11 points, including four key foul shots in the final 20 seconds to seal the outcome.
Christian Vital paced the balanced Huskies (10-7) with 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Josh Carlton scored 12 points before fouling out, and Alterique Gilbert also added 12.
Connecticut shot 49 percent from the field, frequently hurting the Wildcats off post-ups or dribble penetration. But it was just 2 of 15 from 3-point range and also committed 17 turnovers in the matchup of teams that will be conference rivals next season when the Huskies rejoin the Big East.
Connecticut scored more than half its first-half points in the game’s first 4 1/2 minutes. It scored on five of its first six possessions, with Akok Akok draining a 3-pointer from the left wing at the 15:43 mark for an 11-4 lead that forced Villanova coach Jay Wright to use a timeout.
That was pretty much it for the Huskies’ offense for the half’s remainder, although they managed to hang on to the lead until Samuels converted a turnover into a layup with 10:49 left in the half. That gave the Wildcats their first lead at 16-15.
Neither team did much offensively over the last eight minutes, which saw Villanova manage eight points while holding UConn to four. That sent the Wildcats to the locker room with a 27-21 advantage despite 41.7 percent shooting.
—Field Level Media