Shabazz Napier called out his teammates after Saturday’s loss, saying they had no “heart”. Considering how bad the UConn Huskies men’s basketball team was losing early on in this one, it seemed as though no one listened.

But things started to change and the Huskies gradually worked themselves back into the game, eventually regaining the lead in the second half. Poor free throw shooting almost cost them the game but thanks to Napier, they were able to pull this one out.

UConn's Shabazz Napier gets a hug from Ryan Boatright and cheers from Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith after sinking the winning three-pointer with 0.6 seconds left on the clock. Napier’s three pointer with .6 seconds left was the difference as the Huskies beat the Villanova Wildcats 73-70 in overtime in front of 13,382 at the Wells Fargo Center and a nationally televised audience on ESPN’s Big Monday in Philadelphia, PA.

With UConn (17-10, 7-8 Big East) up 65-64 in overtime, Jeremy Lamb hit two free throws to put the Huskies up three. Roscoe Smith then blocked a JayVaughn Pinkston shot and then he fouled Lamb who corraled in the rebound. Lamb missed the front end of the one-and-one and Villanova (11-16, 4-11) went down and missed a three with the ball going out of bounds.

Napier’s inbound pass was picked off by Pinkston and the Wildcats went down the court with Ty Johnson missing a layup. But Mouphtaou Yarou grabbed the rebound and fouled by Alex Oriakhi. Yarou nailed both free throws to cut the lead down to one. On the inbound play, the Wildcats fouled Napier who missed the front end as Lamb did but the Huskies got the rebound.

After a timeout, the Wildcats fouled Lamb who hit both free throws. Villanova got it to within one on a Johnson layup and they fouled Lamb again when the ball was inbounded. Lamb hit the first but missed the second free throw giving the Wildcats a chance to tie or win the game.

Johnson would tie the game up with a layup with four seconds left. Napier took the inbounds pass and pulled up at around the 29 foot mark and swished the three. Villanova would throw the ensuing inbounds pass out of bounds giving the Huskies a hard fought win.

To continue reading, click on the read more button below if you’re on the home page.

Lamb was the only Husky to score in double figures and he did it in big fashion as he scored a career-high 32 points while pulling down five rebounds. Andre Drummond added eight points and 11 rebounds while Ryan Boatright also had eight points, four assists and three steals. Smith had a nice game as well with seven points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.

Dominic Cheek led the Wildcats with 23 points. Johnson added 14 points, five rebound and six assists while Pinkston added a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Yarou chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.

Things were definitely looking good for the Huskies early on at all. They would find themselves down by 16 at 26-8 with 8:23 in the half. But UConn was resilient and battled back. Over the next eight minutes, they responded with a 22-4 run to tie the game up at 30 and that’s where the two teams stood at the break.

The Huskies would finally take their first lead since being up 2-0 when Lamb nailed a jumper at the 16:45 mark. Lamb would push the lead up to five with a three. With the score 40-35 in UConn’s favor, the Wildcats battled back to tie it up with five straight points. It would stay close for a bit before UConn would push their lead to seven at 54-47 on an old-fashioned three point play by Lamb.

Villanova didn’t quit either as they would battle back with an 11-4 run to tie the game up at 58. Yarou would hit two free throws with 2:18 left in the game to give the Wildcats a two point lead. UConn then couldn’t buy a basket and found themselves in a boatload of trouble. But with 32 seconds left, Smith stole the Villanova inbounds pass and the Huskies would eventually tie the game up on an Oriakhi tip in. The Huskies would have to sweat out the final 23 seconds as Pinkston would miss a jumper setting up the overtime.

Given how bad it looked early on, I’m very pleased with how the Huskies responded. They could have given up but they didn’t. Despite the fact that Lamb looked like he was UConn’s offense, I will say this was a great team effort. Hopefully this is the win that wakes them up and shows them what can happen when they play as a team.

It won’t be easy though for the Huskies their next time out though as they welcome the No. 2/2 Syracuse Orange to Gampel Pavilion on Saturday night. Tip is scheduled for 9 p.m. and the game will be nationally-televised on ESPN. The ESPN GameDay crew will be on campus as well and will be broadcasting from Gampel all day long.

Notes and musings:

UConn Huskies @ Villanova Wildcats 2.20.12 box score

Before the game, Alex Oriakhi put Holy Water on the head of everyone before they came out to the court.

The starting five for the Huskies were Ryan Boatright, Jeremy Lamb, Roscoe Smith, Alex Oriakhi and Andre Drummond.

UConn shot 43.1% (28-65) from the floor while the Wildcats shot 40.3% (25-62).

The Huskies had 12 assists on their 28 made baskets.

UConn was 7-of-23 (30.4%) from beyond the arc. Villanova was 3-of-9 (33.3%). They actually hit all of their threes during that big run to start the game.

As I said in the recap, the Huskies were AWFUL at the free throw line. They were 10-of-22 (45.5%). I’ve always said at one point it would cost them a game and it almost happened in this one.

Villanova outrebounded UConn 45-37.

The Wildcats outscored the Huskies 30-28 in the paint and 11-7 on the fast break.

UConn had 17 second chance points to eight for Villanova.

The Huskies had 12 points off 15 Wildcats turnovers. Villanova had 13 points off of nine UConn turnovers.

UConn’s bench outscored Villanova’s 11-4.

Follow Ian on Twitter @soxanddawgs. And be sure to like us on Facebook as well.

Photo credit: Bettina Hansen – Hartford Courant (No. 17 in gallery)