Griffin leads No. 5 UConn over No. 21 Villanova, 63-58
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — This time, UConn had Aubrey Griffin.
The junior forward scored 19 points and No. 5 Connecticut beat No. 21 Villanova 63-58 on Sunday, a year after losing to the Wildcats on the same court.
Griffin was home recovering from back surgery for that game, which like this one, came just after a big win over Tennessee.
“Being able to play this year and contributing and trying to help my team any way I can to help us win, it’s been good,” Griffin said.
Dorka Juhasz added 16 points and Aaliyah Edwards had 13, including some key free throws for the Huskies (20-2, 12-0 Big East) in the team’s 13th straight win.
Maddy Siegrist scored 25 points for Villanova, which handed the Huskies their last conference loss last February. Lucy Olsen had 19.
The Wildcats (18-4, 9-2) had won nine in a row.
Villanova led 51-45 with eight minutes left, but UConn went on a 15-4 run for a 60-55 advantage with 51 seconds left.
Olsen’s 3-pointer made it a two-point game with 22 seconds remaining. But Edwards hit a foul shot and then blocked a 3-pointer by Siegrist, and the Huskies also forced an off-balance contested attempt from Olsen.
Edwards hit two more free throws to secure the win.
“Hey man, I know I can knock in those free throws,” Edwards said. “I missed one, but I knew I could knock in the rest of them.”
UConn led by as many as eight points in the first half. But the Wildcats held the Huskies without a point for an almost nine-minute stretch from the second quarter into the third.
Siegrist gave Villanova a 34-33 lead on a pair of free throws, part of a 12-0 run. The Wildcats outscored the Huskies 15-10 in the third quarter and led 45-43 going into the fourth.
“You put yourself in a position to win the game and then, you know, we didn’t capitalize down the stretch,” Siegrist said. “They’re a great team, a great program and so just knowing that you hung with them, you can hang with anyone.”
Griffin put the Huskies in front with a three-point play on a driving layup with 3:48 left in the game.
“Today, Aubrey was just on fire,” Edwards said.
Villanova: Siegrist has scored 20 or more points in every one of the Wildcats’ games this season. She came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 28.5 points per game.
UConn: UConn was again without guards Caroline Ducharme, who has missed the Huskies’ last nine games with a concussion, and Azzi Fudd, who has missed 13 games this season after twice injuring her right knee. Former national player of the year Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady were lost for the season with knee injuries.
“Today was the first game all year where I thought we looked really tired,” coach Geno Auriemma said.
Siegrist hit just three of her 12 shots in the first half before making 6 of 11 in the second. The Huskies outrebounded Villanova 36-33 and outscored the Wildcats 30-22 in the paint.
Auriemma, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, Pennsylvania, came into his postgame news conference sporting a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl T-shirt.
“There were three Philadelphia teams today,” Auriemma joked, apparently counting his Huskies as the third team. “We were hoping for a 2-1 split, with Villanova coming out a little bit on the short end, but not by much.”
Villanova: Returns home to host Marquette on Wednesday.
UConn: Visits Providence on Wednesday. It’s the finale tune-up for the Huskies before their showdown next Sunday with top-ranked South Carolina.
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