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Updated: Saturday, February 15, 2003 4:21 PM EST
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Villanova 79, (19) Connecticut 70
Connecticut Huskies
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Villanova Wildcats
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PHILADELPHIA (Ticker) -- Villanova coach Jay Wright made 19th-ranked Connecticut feel the absence of injured point guard Taliek Brown.

Wright's pressure defense forced 24 turnovers and Gary Buchanan scored 28 points to lead Villanova to a 79-70 victory in a battle for first place in the Big East East division at the First Union Center.

The Wildcats (14-9, 7-3 Big East) entered with four losses in their last five games and had lost four straight to Connecticut, but Wright's assortment of traps bothered guards Ben Gordon and Tony Robertson, who combined for 12 of the 22 turnovers.

"Our guards Derrick Snowden and Randy Foye did a great job. They deserve the credit for creating turnovers," Wright said.

"There's no reason that our perimeter players should be turning the ball over 24 times. It's just unacceptable," said interim Connecticut coach George Blaney, who is 2-2 filling in for Jim Calhoun.

Gordon played despite being arrested early Friday on misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault and disorderly conduct after allegedly slapping a female student in the face. He was released on $1,000 bond.

The Huskies' leading scorer, Gordon appeared affected by the incident in the first half, hitting just 1-of-7 shots for three points. But in the second half, Gordon converted 7-of-12 shots and 6-of-8 free throws for 22 points.

Afterwards, Gordon did not address his arrest.

"I'm not at liberty to talk about that right now," said Gordon, who is scheduled to appear in court on February 25.

But Gordon's second-half performance on the court Saturday was not enough for Connecticut (15-6, 6-4), which pulled within 65-63 with 4:13 left when Gordon converted five free throws in a six-second span.

"Coach (Wright) told us to just stay calm after those free throws," Buchanan said. "We kept our composure and stayed with the game plan."

Ricky Wright scored on a follow dunk and Buchanan connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3:11 left to increase Villanova's advantage to 70-63. It was the sixth 3-pointer of the game for Buchanan, who fell one point shy of matching a season high.

After a layup by Huskies freshman Rashad Anderson, Villanova hit five straight free throws, including a pair by Buchanan with 42 seconds remaining, to seal the win.

"It was just one of those afternoons where I shot the ball well," said Buchanan, who was 8-of-17 from the field. "If I'm making my shots, the team has confidence in me to get me the ball."

Connecticut has been without Brown since he suffered a broken left index finger in a February 5 loss to Virginia Tech. Robertson, who is more accustomed to the shooting guard spot, moved into the starting lineup and had more turnovers (6) and points (5).

"I think what you talk about with Taliek is you talk about on-the-road heart," Blaney said. "You need that toughness to come into a place like this. I would have hoped we would have had a few more fast breaks with Taliek."

The Huskies outrebounded Villanova, 50-39 and limited the Wildcats to 31 percent shooting. Center Emeka Okafor had 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots and held Wildcats freshman Jason Fraser to three points.

"I don't think I've ever been in a game where one team gives up 31 percent (shooting) and loses," Blaney said. "We gave them so many possessions to allow them to win the game. It was just a crime."

But the Huskies had 24 turnovers compared to eight for Villanova.

"How do we go out and commit just eight turnovers against a very good defensive team and another night not do it," Jay Wright said. "That's hard to say, but again our guards were very good."

Connecticut held a 51-47 lead on a layup by freshman Denham Brown with 14:23 left, but committed six turnovers over the next four minutes while the Wildcats reeled off nine straight points.

Snowden ignited the run with a 3-pointer and Marcus Austin converted a layup to give Villanova the lead for good with 11:41 remaining. Freshman Allan Ray made four straight free throws, including two for a technical on Blaney, to increase the advantage to 56-51 with 10:45 left.

Connecticut trailed by seven when Gordon made 5-of-7 free throws in six seconds to cut the deficit to two. He was fouled by Snowden while shooting with 4:19 left and converted 2-of-4 free throws after Snowden was called for a technical foul. With 4:13 left, Gordon was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer and made all three.

Despite shooting just 31 percent in the first half, Villanova held a 36-33 lead as Buchanan scored 15.

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