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Updated: Monday, January 17, 2005 11:10 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(13) Connecticut 77, Seton Hall 68

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Unable to close out Seton Hall after building an early lead, Connecticut rode Charlie Villanueva to the win.

Villanueva scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half and Josh Boone added 20 as No. 13 Connecticut continued its dominance of Seton Hall with a 77-68 Big East Conference victory.

"People like to say that we have tall guys on our front line and I like to say we have talented, tall guys and tonight it showed," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.

The Huskies, who scored the first 12 points, captured their fourth straight win over the Pirates. They have taken 18 of the last 20 meetings.

Trailing 23-9 midway through the first half, Seton Hall rallied behind the stellar play of senior forward Andre Sweet. He scored nine points as the Pirates went on a 22-8 run over the final five-plus minutes of the first half to trail just 38-37 at intermission.

"Sweet was great," Seton Hall coach Louis Orr said. "Last year he had a double-double when we played at Connecticut. The last two games he brought great energy and played very hard. That's the Andre Sweet that I've come to know and have a lot of respect for. Coming off the bench or starting, when he's playing the way he is it doesn't matter."

Saddled with two fouls, Villanueva was limited to just eight minutes in the first half as Seton Hall completed its comeback, tying the game at 37-37 with 12 seconds before halftime on two free throws by freshman point guard Justin Cerasoli.

"It was frustrating to be in foul trouble in the first half," Villanueva said. "But we kept fighting and showed what UConn basketball is all about."

It was a see-saw affair for most of the second half. Connecticut (11-3, 3-1 Big East) took a 64-61 lead when Villanueva hit a short bank shot. After taking a charge on the other end, the 6-11 sophomore converted two free throws on the next possession to push the lead to five points with 4:31 left.

"Charlie is a great player," Calhoun said. "He had three or four outstanding passes plays down the stretch. He has been very solid for us this year, putting up double-double every night."

Seton Hall (8-7, 0-4) threatened again in the final minute, but Villanueva sank a jump hook from the right baseline with the shot clock winding down to seal Connecticut's first back-to-back victories since winning four straight from December 19-30.

Villanueva made 7-of-13 shots and grabbed 12 rebounds. Boone made all eight of his shots and swept eight boards for the Huskies, who held a 46-31 advantage on the glass.

"Practice by practice, we are getting better," Boone said. "If we bring it into the game, we will have a great year. At times we show poise and at times we don't and turn the ball over. That is just youth."

Rudy Gay chipped in 18 points and seven boards for Connecticut, which shot 54 percent (30-of-56) and made 17-of-20 free throws.

Meanwhile, Rashad Anderson continued to be plagued by shooting woes. The Huskies' top 3-point threat, Anderson went 2-of-7 with just four points, including 0-of-4 from the arc. UConn was held without a 3-pointer for the first time this season.

Over his last seven games, the junior guard is shooting just 25 percent from the field, including 8-of-46 on 3-pointers. He has also failed to reach double digits in three of his last four contests.

Sweet scored 22 points and Kelly Whitney and J.R. Morris had 13 each for the Pirates, who opened the game by missing their first 11 shots, including two dunks.

"We just can't play for stretches," Orr said. "(The good stretches) are getting longer, but we are playing against teams that if you don't do it for the whole game you're going to come up short."

Cerasoli added 10 points, six assists and five steals for Seton Hall, which is 0-4 in the Big East for the first time since 1985-86.


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