HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)Jordan Hawkins scored 22 points to lead No. 2 UConn past Villanova 74-66 on Wednesday night.
Freshman Alex Karaban added 15 points and Andre Jackson Jr. had 10 for the Huskies (14-0, 3-0 Big East).
The win allowed the Huskies to tie the start of the 1953-54 team for third best. Only two have fared better with the 1998-99 team’s 19-0 mark at the top of the list. It was also the first season UConn won a national championship.
UConn is one of three remaining undefeated teams in the country along with Purdue and New Mexico.
”Pressure is being 6-8, there’s no pressure on us,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. ”We have a good team.
”We won our first 14, we have a lot of confidence in what we do.”
Hawkins scored in double figures for the sixth straight time and had his fourth 20-point game of the season. He made 6 of 14 from the field and 4 of 11 3-pointers.
”I’ve always been confident in my game,” Hawkins said. ”It’s been a lot of hard work and that’s what you need to build your confidence.”
The Huskies needed some perimeter punch with the Wildcats locking down on center Adama Sanogo. The preseason Big East Player of the Year was held to two points in the first half. Sanogo finished with seven points, his second fewest of the season.
”This is why our league is a really good league and UConn’s a really good team,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. ”There’s no team where you can just take away one guy and you’re automatically guaranteed to have a positive result.
”They are number two for a reason and they have multiple guys who can beat you.”
Caleb Daniels led Villanova (7-6, 1-1) with 23 points, Eric Dixon added 18 and Brandon Slater had 10.
A 16-3 run early in the second half helped the Huskies create some separation, taking a 49-39 lead with 12:13 left. Daniels’ layup gave Villanova a 36-33 lead, but 3-pointers from Hawkins and Karaban followed by a Jackson dunk sparked the home team’s surge.
UConn finished with 21 of 53 shooting from the field and 9 for 30 on 3-pointers. The Wildcats made 22 of 51 but were just 5 for 22 on the perimeter.
”They made it tough defensively trying to get after us,” Neptune said. ”They made it a tough and nasty game.”
It was the first game this season the Huskies did not win by double digits.
THE BIG PICTURE
The Wildcats had their five-game win streak come to an end.
The Huskies are in the meat of their conference schedule with trips to Xavier and Providence coming up before hosting Big East preseason favorite Creighton.
The Huskies defense came up large after Villanova cut it to 58-56 with 3:36 to play on Daniels’ three-point play. First Jackson’s steal led to a Sanogo layup, then Hassan Diarra drew a charge from Jordan Longino that led to Jackson’s 3-pointer and a 63-56 lead.
In 20 minutes off the bench, Diarra scored six points with three assists and four second-half steals.
”My mentality was to be disruptive and pick my team up with energy,” he said.
Villanova: Hosts Marquette on Saturday.
UConn: At No. 22 Xavier on Saturday.