HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Villanova coach Jay Wright has been pushing Ryan Arcidiacono to be a bit more selfish as a player and look for his shot.
The freshman guard responded with 25 points Saturday, 14 above his average, as the Wildcats (16-10, 7-6 Big East) beat Connecticut 70-61 on the road.
“I’m the only guy in the world who gets a kid who is an unbelievable scorer and he wants to be the nicest guy in the world and pass to everybody,” Wright said. “No one ever had to tell me to shoot. We tell him to shoot. We want him to score.”
A pair of Arcidiacono 3-pointers sparked an 11-0 run that turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 52-45 Villanova lead and the Wildcats never trailed again.
The freshman guard had five of Villanova’s nine 3-pointers and the Wildcats hit 9 of 21 from behind the arc. They are now 13-0 when they make six or more 3-pointers in a game.
“I was just looking for my shot the whole game,” said Arcidiacono, who finished with just two assists. “I don’t really know how many assists I had. I just wanted to stay aggressive.”
Mouphtaou Yarou added 11 points and had 16 rebounds for Villanova, which outrebounded UConn 41-25, including 20-5 on the offensive glass.
“That gives confidence to the guards, the 3-point shooters,” Yarou said. “They know they can take a shot and if they miss we are going to get the rebound. It’s like a pass to us.”
The Wildcats came in leading the Big East in rebounding, pulling down an average of 39 per game.
Omar Calhoun scored 16 points to lead UConn (17-7, 7-5). The Huskies had won five of their last six, including an emotional upset over rival Syracuse on Wednesday.
But Villanova held UConn’s guard tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright to just six points. The pair had combined to average just under 33 points a game.
“We didn’t play with the toughness we needed to play with,” Napier said.
A layup from Yarou gave the Wildcats a 64-57 lead with just over 2 minutes left and James Bell sealed the win with a 3-pointed that stretched the lead to 10.
Bell had all 11 of his points in the second half.
“As a captain, sometimes I feel I have to step up,” he said. “When I play needs to be made, I would want to make it. So, down the stretch, I was asking for them to look for me.”
Napier picked up two fouls in the game’s first 4 minutes, and the Huskies had a difficult time running their offense without him. Villanova went on an 11-0 run, holding UConn without a field goal for more than 7 minutes in the first half, before a fast-break dunk by DeAndre Daniels made it 13-8.
Daniels had six of the Huskies first eight points.
Napier came back in midway through the half, helping the Huskies to a 10-2 run that gave them back the lead at 16-14.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from little-used Leon Tolksdorf brought the crowd into the game and stretched the lead to 22-16. Tolksdorf had just 10 points all season coming into the game, six in Big East play.
Arcidiacono kept the Wildcats close. He had 17-first half points, including the team’s final seven of the half. He had five of the team’s nine first-half baskets.
Napier didn’t get his first bucket until after halftime, but had nine assists. Boatright’s first bucket didn’t come until the game’s final minute.
Villanova has been an enigma this season, beating Syracuse and Louisville in the same week, but losing to Providence twice and suffering an 18-point loss to Columbia. They were coming off an 18-point loss to Cincinnati, after wins over DePaul and South Florida, two teams at the bottom of the conference standings.
UConn had won the last four meetings between the schools.
The Huskies fall to 12-2 when leading at the half this season.
“I’m not jumping off a cliff,” said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. “I think our guys are going to come back. They’ve been very resilient throughout the year.”
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)