By Harry Allison

Jordan Hawkins scored 24 points and Alex Karaban had 16 to lead No. 14 Connecticut to a 71-59 win over Villanova.

The Huskies (24-7, 13-7 Big East) head into the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden winners of five straight and eight of nine. The Huskies stretched the lead to 15 points in the second half and remained alive for a top-three seed in the Big East Tournament.

The Wildcats (16-15, 10-10) are going to need to win the whole thing if they are going to make the NCAA Tournament under first-year coach Kyle Neptune.

The transition from Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright to Neptune has been uneven this season for the Wildcats. The Wildcats were hit with injuries to two key starters — Justin Moore, who tore his right Achilles tendon in the NCAA Tournament, and Cam Whitmore, who broke his right thumb in the preseason, that had the Wildcats stumble to a 2-5 starts.

Whitmore came back in December and Moore returned in late January and they turned Villanova into instant winners. The Wildcats had won four straight and six of seven until this stumble in the finale at their off-campus home in Philly.

Moore led the Wildcats with 17 points and Whitmore had 14.

“We know we’re a great team that can do great things,” Moore said.

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