Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wildcats Stun #20 Notre Dame at Pavilion, Cruise Over Century Mark with 102-87 Victory

by Craig Dimitri

The Wildcats stunned a very hot, #20 Notre Dame team on Wednesday, January 17, at the Pavilion. It was only ND's second visit to the Pavilion in its history; all but one of its previous appearances had been at the Palestra or the Wachovia Center. That lone time was during the Kerry Kittles era, when ND was handed a defeat in 1996, its first season in the Big East. And the same outcome took place Wednesday night, with Villanova rolling to a surprisingly easy 102-87 victory over the Fighting Irish. With the victory, Villanova improved to 2-3 Big East, 12-5 overall; ND fell to 3-2 Big East, 15-3 overall.

Villanova had tremendous shooting accuracy in the first half, racking up 50 points and shooting a torrid 58% from the floor - the first time the Wildcats had shot over 50% in the first half, since doing it against Temple back in December. This permitted them to build a 50-40 halftime lead, which they did not relinquish.

Sophomore Dante Cunningham had a career-high 19 points, on 7-11 shooting and 5-7 from the foul line. Obviously, ND did not view him as a significant offensive threat. The 102 points represented a VU record for a Big East game at the Pavilion, surpassing the previous high of 98, which the Kerry Kittles/Jason Lawson/Alvin Williams era team scored against Seton Hall in December 1994. The offensive explosion was even more surprising, given that in the first four Big East games this year (three of them losses), the Wildcats had not scored more than 65 points in any of them, averaging just 60.3 pts/game. And they got 50 against Notre Dame (a ranked team, no less, and one that was red-hot coming into the game) in one half.

It was a veritable offensive explosion by the Wildcats: Scottie Reynolds had 27 points, Curtis Sumpter 21, Mike Nardi 18, in addition to Cunninghams' 19 points. However, Notre Dame had some fine offensive performances as well: Russell Carter had 26 points (including half a dozen triples), Colin Falls had 17 points, including five three-pointers, and freshman star Luke Harangody added 13.

ND will have the opportunity to return the favor on Saturday, January 27, when the Wildcats travel to South Bend, where ND is undefeated this season. ND is one of only three teams Villanova will face twice this season, under the new Big East scheduling format.

The Wildcats will try to capitalize on this momentum, when they take on a second ranked opponent, #21 Texas, at the Wachovia Center on Saturday afternoon, on CBS.

Questions? Comments? Information? You can contact Craig Dimitri at

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