clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Villanova Basketball 2022-23 game preview: No. 14 UConn Huskies

The Wildcats end the regular season at the Wells Fargo Center against the Huskies.

NCAA Basketball: DePaul at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Villanova Wildcats keep up their recent streak of success? They’ll get one final heavy-hitter to end the regular season, as they welcome the UConn Huskies at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday.

Villanova enters 16-14 overall and 10-9 in Big East play. The ‘Cats have won six of their last seven games, including a stretch of three-straight.

As for UConn, it is also entering with winning momentum. The Huskies also had their share of turbulent times since the last time they faced Villanova, but got back on track by winning seven of its last eight games, which includes a four-game winning streak.

What’s gone right

There’s no doubt Villanova’s been a different team since that last meeting with UConn on Dec. 28, and especially in recent weeks.

  • Justin Moore feeling more like himself: Rust was expected, but he’s grown more and more comfortable on the court with each passing game. It’s remarkable considering Kyle Neptune has stated Moore is only about 70%, but he’s had a big hand in the recent streak. In his first five games back, he averaged 9.0 points on just 31.3% shooting, with 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. However, in the last five games, Moore is averaging 17.6 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and just 1.4 turnovers per game, while shooting 50.9%. He scored 15 points or more in four of the last five games, but even in the one he didn’t, he still netted eight points, dished out eight assists and had no turnovers.
  • Wildcats’ composure in crunch time: It felt like Villanova just needed one to finally work out to get over the hump, and while it took a bit longer than everyone would’ve liked, the ‘Cats seemed to get that crunch time win where they held firm in a 64-63 win at the Cintas Center. They demolished Creighton in a hot start, but then closed out against a pesky Seton Hall squad. UConn will pose another tough challenge, but Villanova held tight with the Huskies the last time out. They were underpowered offensively, but with Moore and the rest of the team starting to click again, it should be even closer and possibly a revenge win for Villanova.
  • Improved defense: It certainly helps being back to full strength, with Moore grooving once again, Cam Whitmore making an impact, and now Jordan Longino working his way back in after a recent injury. The ‘Cats defense was certainly on display against Creighton, and they stood tall when they needed to and got key stops against Xavier and Seton Hall. UConn will provide another tough test. According to KenPom, UConn enters as the No. 9-ranked team in the country for offensive efficiency.

Checking out UConn

Adama Sanogo will be the top player to watch. Much like last year’s first meeting in the series, Sanogo was marred by foul trouble and didn’t really get to do much against the ‘Cats the last time out. He was limited to seven points, one rebound and three turnovers. Eric Dixon will be busy trying to limit the standout big man upfront. Sanogo is averaging a team-high 17.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He’s started to take some threes as well to keep defenses honest, shooting 17-of-45 (37.8%) throughout the season.

Sophomore Jordan Hawkins cooked the ‘Cats the last time out, helping the Huskies race out in front early on. He had a 22-point outing and proved it wasn’t a fluke, as he’s kept up his excellent scoring in Big East play. He’s averaging 16.1 points, nearly tripling his average from last season, while shooting 40.6% overall and 38.4% from deep — both improved marks.

After that, it’s a pretty balanced approach. UConn has a deep rotation. Tristen Newton is the lead playmaker, and their last player that also averages in double figures. Newton averages 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Alex Karaban is UConn’s top perimeter threat at a 39.4% clip, who can be dangerous if he gets going. 7-foot-2 freshman Donovan Clingan gives the Huskies size upfront off the bench, and while it’s not exactly an eye-popping statline, Andre Jackson should not be disregarded. His versatility, athleticism and ability to be a swiss army knife that does everything on both ends is admirable. He had 11 points, eight boards and nine assists in their last game against DePaul. He’s averaging 6.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.