Written by on 01/21/2024

Philadelphia, PA – Fifteen years ago, the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team sat atop the NCAA Men’s Basketball AP Poll.  This past week, they found themselves there again as they visited Philadelphia to battle the Villanova Wildcats for a Saturday Night prime-time college basketball game.

Husky Coach Dan Hurley wasn’t impressed with his “national ranking,” referring to squirrels worrying about polls as he prepared his team for a challenging road game in the City of Brotherly Love.  Love wasn’t what the crowd at Wells Fargo Center was offering the 2023 national champions.

With an eleven-to-zero run to start the game, the Huskies seemed ready and more importantly poised to embarrass the Wildcats at home.  Yet the Wildcats used their home crowd’s energy to enter the halftime break down by only five points.

The second half started with Villanova quickly tying the game before taking the lead with 12:42 left before the final buzzer. With the Wildcat faithful constantly on UCONN star, Tristan Newton, momentum seemed to shift before Newton took charge.

“They [Wildcat student section] were loud.  When I missed one they jumped up real loud, so safe travels to them going home back to the crib,” said Newton after he waved to the Wildcat students after hitting a pair of free throws to seal the UCONN victory.  Newton led all UCONN players with 25 points and 19 of those came as the Huskies were clawing their way to victory against their unranked Big East rival.

UCONN’s one-point victory (65-64) coupled with a Seton Hall loss puts them alone at the top of the Big East.  The Huskies enjoy an eight-day break from play as the number-one seed in the nation.

“It was a gut-check win,” said Dan Hurley, UCONN’s head coach.  “You saw a program that had confidence down the stretch; a championship level of confidence to win games in clutch moments.”

UCONN plays again on January 28th at home against Xavier. The Wildcats, stand at fifth in the Big East as they travel to St. John’s on Wednesday, January 24th.

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