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Feb. 20—The UConn men's basketball team is competitive again. But that doesn't make losing key Big East conference games any more palatable for the Huskies.
No. 10 Villanova beat UConn 68-60 Saturday afternoon on the Wildcats' campus outside Philadelphia.
UConn guard James Bouknight, in his second game back following a six-week absence with an elbow injury, had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Huskies (10-6, 7-6 Big East). But the star sophomore cooled off after a hot start.
Bouknight missed only once on his first seven attempts from the floor. But he connected only once on his final 10 attempts. That one made field goal was a 3-pointer in the final minute that pulled his team within six.
"He got a little nicked up. They were pretty physical with him and he's a hard-playing guy. He's just bruised up, banged up. I think more of his issue today was fatigue, conditioning," UConn coach Dan Hurley said.
R.J. Cole scored 10 points while Tyrese Martin had nine points and 11 rebounds for UConn.
As a team, the Huskies hit just 29.6 percent of their shots in the second half.
"We have to play offense. We have to get the ball moving better. The ball just can't end up in James' hands just trying to bail us out," Hurley said.
Collin Gillespie hit two key 3-pointers down the stretch and had 20 points to lead Villanova. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl added 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats (14-4, 9-3).
"Gillespie's threes were huge. He was tremendous," Hurley said.
UConn trailed by two at halftime but went cold midway through the second half as Villanova slowly pulled away. The Huskies went seven minutes without a field goal as the hosts went on a 12-3 run and took a 57-47 lead with 4:25 to play in the game.
UConn got off to its typically slow start and trailed 6-0. But Bouknight came alive soon after, scoring eight points in a three-minute span to pull UConn into the lead. His second 3-pointer of the game made it 10-9 Huskies just before the first scheduled time out.
Bouknight and the Huskies got a little scare when he landed on his surgically repaired elbow after making a running shot to tie the game 12-12. He left the game seconds later and appeared to be in serious pain as UConn trainer James Doran examined him.
But Bouknight re-entered the fray just two minutes later, however, and resumed his dominance at the offensive end. He had 14 of UConn's first 21 points, connecting on six of his first seven shots.
Jalen Gaffney, who played his high school ball not far from the Villanova campus, hit a pair of key jump shots to keep UConn ahead by a sliver late in the half. Villanova did stage a small rally to take a 34-32 lead at the break.
Neill covers UConn men's basketball and UConn football teams, and he keeps a finger on the pulse of Connecticut sports. For live game updates, and more insight into UConn athletics, player transfers, and team changes, follow Neill on Twitter: @NeillOstrout, Facebook: JINeillO, and Instagram: @NeillOstrout.