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James Bouknight scores 21, but UConn drops to No. 10 Villanova, 68-60

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RJ Cole shoots a free throw

RJ Cole shoots a free throw

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Collin Gillespie scored 20 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 17 points and 11 rebounds to No. 10 to lead Villanova to a 68-60 win over UConn on Saturday.

Justin Moore added 11 runs for the Wildcats (14-3, 9-2 Big East), who held on defensively in the second half.

James Bouknight, in his second game back after missing eight due to elbow surgery, scored 21 points for the Huskies (10-6, 7-6).

Villanova took his worst defensive performance of the season in last Saturday’s defeat at Creighton, a game in which the Wildcats conceded a worst 86 points of the season while the Bluejays were able to shoot 59% of the field. That defeat dropped the Wildcats five spots in the Associated Press Top 25.

With a week of practice in preparation for UConn, coach Jay Wright said prior to the match that Villanova focused on improving defense.

And it turned out after the break.

The Wildcats held UConns star, Bouknight, on seven points in the second half, while the Huskies shot 30% (8 for 27) off the field and took seven turns. It took up to 34.7 seconds for Bouknight to score a field goal in the second half.

An anticipated first-round NBA draft pick this year, Bouknight had 18 points in 24 minutes in Tuesday’s 73-61 win over Providence in his return. He came out hot, scoring nine of UConn’s first 12 points and finishing 14 in a 20-minute competitive opening that ended with a 34-32 lead for the Wildcats.

The Huskies continued 42-41 Adam Sanogos basket up close with 2:06 pm left. Villanova answered with 12 of the next 15 points and took his biggest lead, 53-45, over Robinson-Earl’s elbow jumper with 7:42 play.

And the advantage reached double digits, 57-47 with 4:25 left, on Moores dunk after an assist from Gillespie.

When the Huskies got close, Villanova always had an answer.

The teams renewed their rivalry in the Great East. UConn, who co-founded the 1979-80 conference, has participated in the American Athletic Conference for the past seven seasons.

With the Huskies away, Villanova dominated the conference and rose to become a consistent national champion. The Wildcats claimed six regular season conference titles during those seven seasons, while capturing NCAA titles in 2016 and 2018.

UConn, which shares the Big East record with Georgetown for conference tournament titles with seven, dropped its usual tier among the elite of college basketballs.

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