SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—Charlie Villanueva experienced the ups and downs of college basketball in three days.
The sophomore forward had one of his worst games in Connecticut’s win over St. John’s on Saturday. On Monday night, he had 21 points, 10 rebounds and several big plays to lead the 19th-ranked Huskies to a 74-66 victory over No. 8 Syracuse, ending the Orange’s 16-game home winning streak.
“This was a huge win for us,” he said. “For me personally, it was as huge as it gets. This was a big game in a tough place to play.”
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said Villanueva was in tears after scoring three points on 1-for-5 shooting in the home win over the Red Storm.
“I told him if he plays hard good things will happen for him and then for us,” Calhoun said.
Connecticut closed the game with a 9-1 run and Villanueva outscored Syracuse 7-5 over the final 8 minutes as the Huskies (15-5, 7-3 Big East) won for the fourth time in five games.
“Our young kids took over the game,” Calhoun said of his starting lineup that features a junior, three sophomores and a freshman. “We’re fighting for our NCAA life. Obviously, this is the best win we’ve had this season. We’re getting a little better. I believe in this team.”
Hakim Warrick had 16 points for the foul-plagued Orange (21-3, 8-2), who had won all 14 home games this season. The last time Syracuse lost in the Carrier Dome was last Feb. 16 to Notre Dame.
“We have been very good down the stretch, but every game down the stretch you’re not always going to make the right plays or miss a shot or two and that’s what happened,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I thought we played as hard as we played all year.”
The game was a matchup of the last two national champions, and the defending champs prevailed. It also matched two of the winningest coaches in the sport’s history. Calhoun has 695 victories, two behind Boeheim.
Darryl Watkins dunked with 8:10 left to give Syracuse a 61-56 lead, and Villanueva scored the first three points of the quick run that tied it.
Marcus Williams scored in the lane to give the Huskies the lead with 5:24 left, and Villanueva capped the 9-0 run with a flip off the backboard with 4:29 to play.
Billy Edelin hit a jumper for Syracuse 28 seconds later and Josh Pace was credited with a basket on a goaltending call to tie it at 65 with 3:15 left.
But Syracuse came up empty on its next five possessions—including steals of entry passes by Villanueva and Josh Boone—and Villanueva’s layup with 2:47 remaining gave the Huskies the lead for good, 67-65.
Freshman Rudy Gay added 18 points for Connecticut, and Williams had nine points and six assists.
Pace had 14 points for the Orange, while Gerry McNamara, the team’s second-leading scorer at 16.3 per game, had nine on 4-for-18 shooting, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range.
“They were on my hip the whole time,” McNamara said. “Toward the end I had to force some shots. It was tough to get a good look but we should have won.”
Williams, who has been bothered by a virus for the last few days, had the main assignment on McNamara.
“I just want to go to bed. I need some sleep,” Williams said. “I didn’t know he was that fast. He just keeps running, but my big men and wings did a great job hedging and helping.”
Syracuse, which entered the game leading the Big East in shooting at 50.5 percent, was 28-for-66 from the field (42.4 percent).
“In the second half we made some bad plays,” Pace said. “Usually we make plays at the end of the game. Tonight we didn’t.”
The Orange were called for 24 fouls and Warrick, the second-leading scorer in the conference, missed 5:40 of the second half after picking up his fourth. Connecticut was called for 15 fouls, only six in the second half.
“I looked at the scoreboard once and our five players on the court had 17 fouls,” McNamara said. “It’s tough to play aggressive.”