Friday, December 23, 2005

#3 Villanova Levels La Salle, 98-57

by Craig Dimitri

La Salle was a once proud program, and still has loads of tradition, including a NCAA title in 1954. Although the Explorers haven't had a winning season since 1993, Villanova has had trouble with La Salle during that span. Incredibly, La Salle entered the game with a 5-1 record at the Pavilion, far and away the best of any Wildcat opponent, with Villanova's only victory having been on January 12, 2000. (Villanova has only 15 losses to non-Big East opponents in the Pavilion, with five of them coming against La Salle, even though La Salle was only played every other year for most of the 1990s). And heading into tonight, Villanova still led the all-time series by just a 28-26 margin, even after winning six of the last eight clashes.

Well, their second loss was a memorable one. Villanova handed the Explorers their worst defeat in the venerable, 72-year history of the series, by the margin of 98-57. It just eclipsed the previous mark, a 90-50 defeat that Kerry Kittles and company inflicted on Lincoln's Birthday in 1996, when La Salle was playing its home games in the old Spectrum.

Both schools came into the game unbeaten, with identical 7-0 records - in all likelihood, the first time in the Big Five's 50-year history that two schools had faced each other with both being 7-0. Obviously, one would suffer its first loss of the season. And it was La Salle who did all of the suffering tonight.

Villanova improved to 8-0, the first time since the 1977-78 season, when Roland V. Massimino was at the helm, and also moved to 2-0 in the City Series. La Salle fell to 7-1, 0-1 City Series, and was stymied in the pursuit of its first 8-0 start since Lionel Simmons's 1989-90 squad.

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