UConn wins in Ollie’s debut; Villanova next (2024)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Kevin Ollie’s reputation has preceded him.

Villanova coach Jay Wright still recalls the time he was on a recruiting trip in Washington, D.C., four years ago when he met up with Ollie and then-Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. That’s when Calhoun made a bold prediction regarding Ollie, who succeeded Calhoun at UConn two years ago.

“I remember Jim saying to me, ‘This guy is going to be really good. This guy is going to be a great head coach someday,” Wright recalled early Friday morning, following Villanova’s 73-53 second-round NCAA tournament win over Milwaukee. “I’m a big Kevin Ollie fan, man.”

Wright will get a firsthand look at how good Ollie is Saturday, when the No. 2-seeded Wildcats (29-5) face the seventh-seeded Huskies (27-8) in a third-round East Region matchup.

Ollie is coming off a significant win of his own after Connecticut needed overtime to beat Saint Joseph’s 89-81. The win came in Ollie’s first tournament appearance since replacing Calhoun, who stepped down because of health issues. And it came a year after the Huskies were barred from postseason play because of academic sanctions.

Calhoun was in the stands rooting on his successor, who carried on the winning tradition the 71-year-old established during a 26-year tenure in which UConn won three national titles.

“It was a great win,” Ollie said. “Those players right there, that’s what kept this university alive. They could have transferred. They could have done everything. … They just stayed and they were resilient, and they played hard.”

The other third-round game at Buffalo will feature a South Region matchup between third-seeded Syracuse (28-5) and No. 11 seed Dayton (24-10).

Syracuse rolled to a 77-53 win over Western Michigan (23-10). Dayton (24-10) laid claim to being the last Ohio school still in the tournament after Vee Sanford hit a layup with 3.8 seconds left to pull out a 60-59 win over Ohio State (25-10).

The day will feature a former Big East flavor, a year after the conference was pulled apart by defections and realignment.

Villanova remains a member, while Syracuse is now in the ACC, Connecticut has moved to the American Athletic Conference.

Huskies senior guard Shabazz Napier secured the win over Saint Joe’s by shaking off several misses — including a 3-point attempt at the second-half buzzer — to score nine of his 24 points in overtime.

“Just because I missed two shots, three shots, doesn’t mean I’m not going to take the next one with a lot of confidence,” said Napier, who finished 7 of 22 from the field. “Today was a big dogfight, but we willed ourselves and just continued to push each other to get the win.”

DeAndre Daniels scored 18 while freshman center Amida Brimah forced overtime by completing a three-point play in the final minute.

Langston Galloway scored 25 points for Saint Joseph’s. The Hawks wore down because of a lack of depth, and then lost their top forward Halil Kanacevic, who fouled out early in overtime.

Villanova had to rally after trailing Horizon League champion Milwaukee for much of the first half. Darrun Hilliard led the way with 16 points and JayVaughn Pinkston added 13 for the Wildcats.

A 14-point run spanning halftime gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead early in the second half and they held on. Hilliard’s long 3-pointer from the top of the key with 8:10 left gave them a 53-42 advantage, and the Panthers couldn’t recover.

Austin Arians had 17 points to lead Milwaukee and Matt Tiby scored 10. Jordan Aaron, Milwaukee’s leading scorer, finished with six points, all in the second half, on 1-of-15 shooting.

The Orange zone defense put the clamps on the Broncos from the beginning, while Trevor Cooney scored 18 points to break out of a lengthy slump in keying the win.

The Orange forced 11 turnovers in the opening half and scored 13 points off them in running out to a double-digit lead before the midpoint of the period.

Guard Tyler Ennis scored 16 for the Orange, who had stumbled. After opening the season 25-0, they lost five of seven entering the tournament.

Shayne Whittington and Tucker Haymond led Mid-American Conference Broncos with 11 points apiece. David Brown, the MAC scoring champion, finished with a season-low nine points on 2-of-12 shooting, 2 of 10 from long range.

The Flyers laid claim to being Ohio’s last team standing by beating the Buckeyes in a matchup between two schools separated by 75 miles.

Sanford’s layup came 11 seconds after the Buckeyes went ahead on senior guard Aaron Craft’s reverse layup. Craft had a chance to win the game only to have his attempt from 10 feet hit off the backboard and roll off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

Sanford finished with 10 points, Dyshawn Pierre led Dayton with 12 points.

Sam Thompson led Ohio State with 18 points, and Craft scored 16.


AP Sports Writer John Kekis contributed to this report.

UConn wins in Ollie’s debut; Villanova next (2024)


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