Ryan Arcidiacono's shooting aids Villanova win over Connecticut

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Cincinnati guard Cashmere Wright pressures Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono in the first half. (Al Behrman/AP)

For the third time in a Big East game this season, Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono hit at least five three-point baskets and scored more than 20 points.

So after the freshman point guard accounted for 25 points Saturday in the Wildcats’ 70-61 over Connecticut at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., coach Jay Wright was asked about Arcidiacono.

Wright let out a mock sigh.

“I’m the only coach who gets the kid who’s an unbelievable scorer and he wants to be the nicest guy and pass to everybody,” Wright said with a smile. “No one ever told me to shoot. We tell him to shoot, we want him to score. Arch is just too nice of a kid. He wants to make everybody on the team happy.

“I think,” Wright added, “that he’s learned he makes everybody happy when he makes buckets and we win games.”

Well, the Wildcats are 3-0 when Arcidiacono has games like this. He said he went in with a mindset to shoot. He went eight of 15 overall from the field, and five of eight from three-point territory.

“I was just looking for my shot the whole game,” he said. “I don’t really know why but I just wanted to stay aggressive. I missed my first two and then the next one went in, and after that I felt pretty good on all of them.”

The question now is whether Arcidiacono will sustain that attitude. He usually has followed a big-scoring game with some so-so ones.

After he poured in 32 (with seven threes) in the Jan. 2 conference opener – a ‘Nova overtime win – against St. John’s, Arcidiacono scored 17 points in his next three games, going just six of 23 from the field and three of 18 from deep.

He accounted for 23 points (five threes) in the Feb. 5 victory at DePaul but followed that with 10 points in the next two contests, going three of 10, two of five from three.

Offense aside, Arcidiacono played a huge role in the Wildcats limiting UConn guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatwright – the team’s top two scorers – to a grand total of six points on three of 15 shooting.

“It was just a team effort,” he said. “Everyone loaded to them and we tried to get the ball out of their hands and make other people make plays. I really thought we did a great job on them overall as a team, moving to them and attacking them and staying aggressive, making them take tough shots.”

Nova notes: This was the first time this season that Villanova defeated a team with a winning record on the road. Its other five road wins came over teams (Vanderbilt, Penn, Monmouth, South Florida, DePaul) that had a combined .364 win percentage at the start of Saturday’s action. … Mouphtaou Yarou, who tied a career high with 16 rebounds, combined with JayVaughn Pinkston for 13 offensive boards. The Wildcats had 20 offensive rebounds, or as many as the Huskies had off their defensive glass. … Three of Villanova’s five three-pointers in the second half came on second-chance opportunities, with the man who grabbed the rebound getting the assist. The Wildcats scored 20 second-chance points to the Huskies’ eight. … Former UConn coach Jim Calhoun and NBA player Kemba Walker, who led the Huskies to the 2011 national championship, watched the game. … First-year Huskies coach Kevin Ollie, the former 76er, said of the loss, “We didn’t raise our standards and Villanova did. We’ve got to be a little tougher. We’ve got to come up with the loose balls, the 50-50 balls. We’ll do that, we’ve done it before.”

--Joe Juliano

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