BIG EAST men’s basketball teams improved to 59-12 against nonconference opponents after going 5-0 on Wednesday night. Connecticut highlighted the evening by winning the EA Sports Maui Invitational, defeating No. 8/9 Kentucky 84-67.
The Huskies (5-0), who also won the Maui Invite in 2005, used a 21-2 run at the end of the first half to open-up a 21-point halftime lead (50-29). Junior guard Kemba Walker, who was later named MVP of the tournament, had 17 first-half points and finished with 29 in the game. Walker was just four points shy of setting a new Maui Invitational record for points scored, and was just a point shy of becoming the first UConn player to score 30 points in four-straight contests. Sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi was named to the All-Tournament team and notched a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. It was the second consecutive win for the Huskies over a top-ten opponent after beating No. 2 Michigan State on Tuesday.
No. 7/7 Villanova (5-0) moved on to the title game of the Dick’s Sports Goods NIT Season Tip-Off with an 82-70 win over UCLA on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. The Wildcats face No. 24/24 Tennessee on Friday night in the finals. Villanova went on a 14-2 run to end the first half to take a 44-29 into the break. The three-guard attack of Corey Fisher, Maalik Waayns and Corey Stokes was too much for the Bruins, as the three combined for 61 points. Fisher notched a career-high 26 in the victory.
St. John’s (2-1) used overtime to top Ball State 78-73 in the Great Alaska Shootout. The Red Storm rallied from a six-point deficit with 2:15 remaining in the contest to grab the victory. Justin Brownlee scored the final two buckets of regulation to bring the teams even at 63, including a lay-up in the lane with 32.3 seconds left. He led St. John’s with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with a team-high eight rebounds. The Red Storm face Drake in the second round of the tournament.
Providence (5-1) grabbed an 84-77 win over Wyoming to finish third in the Cancun Challenge behind a career-high 29 points from sophomore guard Vincent Council. Council went a perfect 16-of-16 from the free-throw line and 6-of-9 from the field to lead the Friars to the victory. Providence converted 17 Cowboy turnovers into 20 points helping build an 18-point lead with 8:22 to go in the game. Freshman Gerard Coleman added 15 points for the Friars.
Cincinnati (4-0) stayed perfect on the young season with a 54-41 win over Savannah State. The Bearcats held the Tigers to 38.1 percent shooting for the game while forcing 18 turnovers to win a defensive battle. Cincinnati led by as many as 20 in the contest following a Yancy Gates jumper with 4:23 remaining. Gates led the team with 12 points while Cashmere Wright added 11. It was the fourth of six home games for the Bearcats to open the season.
Two games remain on the BIG EAST's Thanksgiving schedule with both on ESPN2. DePaul faces Oklahoma State at 4:30 p.m., while Notre Dame takes on Georgia at 7 p.m.