HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A.J. Reeves scored 16 points and Providence held off No. 20 UConn 57-53 on Saturday in the Big East opener for both teams.
Ed Croswell had 11 points and Nate Watson added 10 for the Friars (11-1), who led by as many as 16 points in the second half but had to hold on at the end.
R.J. Cole had 16 points and Tyrese Martin returned from a wrist injury to score 15 for UConn (9-3), which was playing its fourth straight game without leading scorer Adama Sanogo. The 6-foot-9 post player remains sidelined with an abdominal strain.
Providence scored 11 of the final 12 points of the first half to take a 31-22 lead into the break. The Friars extended the run to 17-1 , getting three consecutive baskets by Watson to open the second half and push the lead to 37-22.
A layup by Al Durham gave them their biggest lead at 48-32.
But UConn used a 9-0 run to get back into the game. A driving layup and free throw by Cole cut the deficit to 48-38 with just over 9 minutes to play and a 3-pointer from Andre Jackson made it 48-41.
Providence led 55-48 when a flagrant elbow from the Friars Al Durham with 2:11 left gave the Huskies a final spark.
Martin hit two free throws and a 3-pointer from Tyler Polley cut the deficit to 55-53 with 1:48 left, but the Huskies missed their final five shots.
Providence: The Friars are now 10-6 against UConn in Hartford, and have won their last four meetings at the XL Center.
UConn: Martin started, playing his first minutes since injuring his left wrist in the Bahamas in late November. He played more than 33 minutes and also had five rebounds.
The Huskies’ second loss in three games likely will drop them out of the AP Top 25, where they may be replaced by the Friars, who already have non-conference wins at Wisconsin and against Texas Tech and Northwestern.
Providence: The Friars host Georgetown on Wednesday
UConn: The Huskies travel to Milwaukee to take on Marquette on Tuesday night