UConn Basketball: 5 Keys to Beating Villanova in Big East Game
The UConn Huskies (17-6, 7-4 Big East), fresh off their huge upset of rival Syracuse, will seek to play the role of spoiler on Saturday afternoon when they host the rival Villanova Wildcats (15-10, 6-6 Big East).
The Wildcats enter the game with zero margin for error if they want to make a play for an at-large bid to March Madness. They hold crucial wins over then top-five teams Syracuse and Louisville but lost awful home blowouts to Columbia and Alabama.
Kevin Ollie's club, on the other hand, has no hopes of tournament success this year due to an NCAA ban, but has played hard and will relish the role of spoiler.
The Huskies would love nothing more than to make a statement and deal a dagger to the hopes of a conference rival.
These are five keys to making that happen.
Contain Darrun Hilliard
Darrun Hilliard is one of those players who started out the season slow but has really come on of late.
The sophomore guard is averaging just under 12 points per game this season but has averaged 18 over his last five.
This was buoyed by a 25-point explosion in a big spot when the Wildcats upended then No. 3 Syracuse to cap off back to back wins over top-five teams.
UConn is known for its guard play this season and it will need one of its backcourt studs to step up on defense and limit Hilliard's opportunities.
Keep the Ball in Napier's Hands
Shabazz Napier has been on a tear of late. He's averaging nearly 20 points a game over his last six games and over 17 on the season.
The questions of how he would transition to being the focal point of the offense have been sufficiently answered.
The goal is to keep the ball in his hands and keep him shooting. He's the hot hand right now and the Huskies need to ride that until it dries up.
Napier can slash to the basket and create a matchup problem for 'Nova while getting to the line where he's a lights-out shooter.
If this happens, UConn wins.
Which Villanova Will Show Up?
Has there been a more schizophrenic team in the nation this year than Villanova?
Seriously, it must drive head coach Jay Wright absolutely crazy.
The Wildcats have looked like world beaters at times, just ask Louisville and Syracuse, and a laughingstock at others—did they really lose by 18 at home against Columbia?
Jay Wright's club has very little margin for error if it wants to secure an at-large tournament bid. If the team that beat two top-five squads in a week shows up, then UConn could have a tough night.
But that team hasn't been able to show up consistently all season. This will be a huge factor in the game.
Daniels and Olander Must Limit JayVaughn Pinkston
JayVaughn Pinkston is a big boy—a very big boy and hard to contain on the inside without a physical presence.
He hasn't gone off in quite some time, not since his 20 points in a losing effort against Providence on Feb. 3, but his big frame and height are a concern.
This is especially true since UConn has been notoriously bad on the boards and struggles with big, physical players on the inside.
Pinkston is both of those things and can present a big matchup problem for a Huskies team that is anything but physical.
Keep Nova off the Offensive Glass
Much has been made this season about UConn's struggles on the boards. But a look deeper inside the numbers shows us exactly where the problem really lies.
The Huskies are absolutely dismal on the offensive glass with just 198 rebounds of their own shots this season. Those are the type of numbers that make a team 267th nationally in rebounding.
Villanova, on the other hand, is much better on the offensive boards with 271 offensive rebounds heading into this matchup.
Kevin Ollie's team will need to clean up the defensive glass better and keep Nova from getting second-chance points.