Whether it was a focused yet aggressive defensive stop, or a patient possession for a good shot, the Huskies showed the same mental toughness that has earned them their top 10 ranking.
Not surprisingly, it was Walker (24 points) and sophomore Alex Orikahi (14 points, 12 rebounds) leading the way. Freshman Jeremy Lamb (14 points, six rebounds), who has now put two quality games together in a row, was also solid, making big plays on both ends of the court.
He caused Villanova to turn the ball over, coming up with two timely steals. He also took smart shots. When they were not available, he did not try to force anything.
Yes, you can say that outside the Walker/Oriakhi/Lamb trio, the Huskies accumulated just nine points. Bench production was not where it normally is, but points are points, no matter where they come from.
Those three starters helped UConn find a way to win. Thanks to Oriakhi, UConn outrebounded Villanova 42-37. Walker and Lamb were a combined 5-11 from three point range. Then, as time ticked down, Walker hit the game winner- a tough shot thrown up off a drive in traffic.
It was by no means a complete effort from the Huskies, but it was good enough to knock off the seventh ranked team in the country. Now, imagine what can happen if everyone gets going at once.
Freshmen Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith have shown flashes of brilliance this year, but struggled mightily against the Wildcats. Napier, who was quickly asserting himself as a young leader for the Huskies, attempted just two shots and never seemed to get going.
Smith, the most highly touted player from this year's recruiting class, had just three points and made some questionable decisions, including fouling Villanova senior Corey Stokes as he attempted a three. The 94% free throw shooter then calmly sunk all three shots to push the Wildcats' lead to four.
In the end, the Huskies picked each other up, overcoming their own struggles. Talking heads have pointed out the improved chemistry of this year's team off a year ago, and that was on display today. Walker and Oriakhi provided the leadership, while the others knew how to make plays for them.
Napier ran the point late in the game, allowing Walker to come off of screens and find looks. Walker was defended well and often struggled to score, but he was able to when it mattered. His basket with 2.5 seconds left was his second game winning shot in ten days. UConn is not a perfect team, but with time running down, it can trust Walker with the ball. The Huskies are now on their way to figuring out the rest.