Monday, January 29, 2007

'Cats Can't Upset #7 Pittsburgh, 65-59, at the Wachovia Center

by Craig Dimitri

On Monday night, January 29, at the Wachovia Center, Villanova suffered a significant setback to its NCAA hopes, failing to knock off a #7 Pitt squad which had left its “A” game back in the hotel. The Wildcats eventually fell, 65-59, failing to maintain a 28-23 halftime advantage. Pittsburgh (#4 RPI) is now off to its best Big East start in school history, at 8-1 Big East (1st place), 20-3 overall. Pitt has now won 20 or more games in six straight years, equally unprecedented in school history. Villanova (#16 RPI) dropped its second straight contest, falling to 3-5 Big East (tied for 9th place, out of 16 teams), 14-7 overall.

Why Did Pittsburgh Win?

Levance Fields. The superb point guard exploded on offense, rocking Villanova’s defense for 20 points on 6-12 shooting.

Antonio Graves. He recorded 13 points on 4-8 shooting, including a rally-breaking triple, down the stretch.

Free throw shooting. The Panthers went 15-18 from the line, and prevented Villanova from rallying down the stretch by sinking their foul shots.

Aaron Gray.
The center had yet another double-double, 14 points, on 6-7 shooting, to go with 10 rebounds.

To paraphrase, it was all about the Benjamin – Keith Benjamin, in particular. One of Pitt’s least-heralded players - the ninth man in their nine-man rotation- he canned three triples, all at crucial points in the game. He finished with nine points in just 11 minutes of action, and played a key role in the outcome. ‘Nova didn’t have anyone off its bench, with a similar impact.

Scottie Reynolds’ inability to find his shot. Reynolds did not score until the second half, finishing with 8 points on just 3-9 shooting.

Villanova’s turnovers
– 16 of them.

Villanova’s struggles from three-point range.
With no post player available to challenge Gray in the paint, the Wildcats fell back on what they do best: launch the long ball. But they were only 5-19 (26.3%) from beyond the arc.

Villanova’s difficulty scoring, of course, had everything to do with the relentless Pittsburgh defense. Villanova was Pitt’s 20th opponent (in 23 games) to be held under 70 points; ‘Nova didn’t even come close, with 59. This was after a 63-point output in the Saturday, January 27, loss at Notre Dame. Curtis Sumpter- still relegated to coming off the bench due to the bone bruise in his shin - had a decent night, scoring a game-high 21 points. His 4-13 from the floor was mitigated by the fact that he got to the foul line often,taking 15 free throws and making a dozen. But Mike Nardi – whose late flurry helped ignite a brief comeback –was the only other Wildcat in double figures, finishing with 10 points on 4-10 shooting (and only 1-6 from three-point range).

The Game Itself

Villanova played very spirited defense throughout, despite having the less talented team. The Wildcats won the first half 28-23, and could easily have led by more. Pitt did not have much success, in feeding the ball inside. The Panthers took only three free throws in the entire half (all of which they made), and took 13 three-point attempts, of which they made four. Villanova did a masterful job of avoiding foul trouble, into which they had gotten mired in South Bend on Saturday. The Wildcats had only two fouls in the half, compared to nine for Pitt. Reynolds had been literally a non-factor in the first half, held scoreless on five field goal attempts. But ‘Nova still held a 28-23 lead, and one in which the ‘Cats had really dominated play. They pressed often during the first half, starting out in a 1-2-2 three-quarter court press, and forced a lot of Pitt turnovers (11). Pitt scored two field goals in the last 9:30, and was in fact fortunate to be down only five at intermission..

Conversely, Villanova had gotten the ball inside fairly easily, given a player of Gray’s caliber. Late in the first half, VU’s frontcourt had scored 24 of the team’s 26 points - and immediately after, the team forced a 35-second violation due to quality defense (Pitt couldn’t get the ball into the paint). When Ronald Ramon committed Pitt’s 10th turnover at the 1:58 mark, the Panthers had six assists against 10 turnovers – a shoddy performance for a team which came into the game leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. At the 1:19 mark, Pitt called a timeout, the ball trapped against the sideline. ‘Nova had the momentum, led by Sumpter; he had 14 points on 4-9 FG shooting at that point. The rest of the team also had 14 points, but on 5-17 FG shooting.

The half ended well: Dante Cunningham played stunning defense on Gray, to whom the ball had been dished. Gray was going up for a slam when Cunningham simply blocked the ball on the way up, and the ball bounced to ‘Nova. But on the other end, Nardi skidded in the paint while trying a fast break with 5.2 seconds left and traveled, returning the ball to Pitt. Nonetheless, ‘Nova had ended the half on a 15-6 run, and seemed to be in good shape for the upset. There were other plays that indicated that Villanova was on the move, half a step quicker than Pitt.

To illustrate:

At one point in the first half, the ball came loose when VU was on offense, going to the east basket; the ball squirted out to the other end, sort of like a gutter ball in bowling, heading straight for the endline. Gray raced down to the other end to corral it, but had to bat it back into play, like a punt coverage man in football trying to prevent a touchback. He was aiming it to Fields, who then, defended by someone (Cunningham, possibly), missed the two-foot shot, underneath, which VU rebounded. Such tenacious defense gave some indication that the Wildcats were bringing appropriate levels of intensity, all 94 feet.

Another illustration was on a subsequent possession, when ‘Nova got two offensive rebounds, and then Shane Clark tipped it in, on a highly athletic leap to the basket. Still later, Villanova’s press forced a turnover from Fields (a rarity). Now with possession, there was an assist by freshman Reggie Redding (a graduate of Philadelphia's St. Joseph's Prep, the author's alma mater), due to his dishing it to Sumpter, who drove down the lane for a traditional 3- point play. Tyrell Biggs had committed the foul, Pitt’s 7th at around 6:20 in the first half. Pitt was sputtering on both ends of the floor. Pitt already had eight turnovers to VU’s four, at the under 4-timeout with 3:53; both teams were shooting 38% or lower, and ‘Nova led, 26-20.

Early in the second half, it appeared to be going well for the Main Liners. Reynolds sprinted out on the fast break, about 18:00, and after beautiful ball movement around the perimeter, it was fed back to Reynolds for a crowd-igniting 3. Gray answered with a traditional three-point play, but Sheridan scored underneath, gliding past Gray’s defense, to give ‘Nova a 35-27 lead. (The Wildcats would be outscored 38-24 the rest of the way, unfortunately – that was probably the high point for Villanova tonight.) Gray countered at the other end, and it was 35-29 at the under-16 minute break, at 15:48. Mike Cook, the Philadelphian Friends Central product, was 0-6 from the floor, early in the second half… The game started to be marked at that point by wild shooting at both ends – ESPN’s Jay Bilas stated something to the effect that “in the second half, both teams are shooting, like the ball’s a grenade with the pin pulled out," and he was right.

Pitt started to hum, though, and the baskets started dropping. They stopped committing fouls, too. Pitt was hit for their first foul of the second half at the 12:59 mark – after 9 PFs in the first half. The ‘Nova lead melted as easily as snow. At 12:21, Jay Wright was forced to call a timeout to break the Pitt run – the Panthers reclaimed the lead at 38-37 at this point, an 11-2 run. The game seesawed back and forth, and the Wildcats still had it tied with under seven minutes to play, 47-all. The huge crowd was highly engaged in the game and ‘Nova still had a great opportunity for an upset. But the ‘Nova defense collapsed, allowing Pitt to score 18 points in the last six minutes and change, starting with a Fields fastbreak to give Pitt a 49-47 lead with 6:03 to play, and take a hard-fought victory, back to western Pennsylvania.

One unusual distinction for this game: the lettuce incident. I was not at the Wachovia Center, but the ESPN broadcasters indicated that the reason why play was delayed substantially following the under-8 TV timeout in the second half (in a neck-and-neck game at that point) was that Sports Marketing had decided to stage some sort of promotion, with students throwing heads of lettuce into a shopping cart. (If any attendee can describe this promotion in more detail, that would be very informative. Please e-mail me…) This promotion had predictable results – lettuce heads exploding on impact with the Block V- customized hardwood.

This led to the surreal sight of the three officials, with help from the VU cheerleaders - kneeling to peel individual pieces of lettuce off the hardwood. (The NCAA thought the traditional streamers from the Palestra bleacher were too dangerous to continue – what would they think of students firing heads of lettuce onto the court?) Whatever happened, for example, to the half-court shot for a prize, during timeouts? Or Villanova trivia?

Concluding Thoughts

Sometimes, you lose to the better team. Pittsburgh is better than Villanova right now, as can be expected when a program loses three players to the NBA. Nonetheless, Pitt was clearly not at its sharpest tonight. The Wildcats had a genuine opportunity to take out a top-10 team, a win that probably would have all but secured a NCAA bid had they been able to come up with it. But it didn’t happen.

After two games in three days, the Wildcats will have five days back on campus, returning to the Wachovia Center on Saturday afternoon, to take on Louisville – coincidentally, the Cardinals received seven votes in today’s AP poll to ‘Nova’s eight. I will have a full preview later this week.

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

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Preview of #7 Pittsburgh (RPI rank #4) @.Villanova (RPI rank #16) - Wachovia Center, Monday, January 29, 7:00 PM, ESPN "Big Monday"

by Craig Dimitri

Calling the game for the ESPN audience, will be Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Bill Raftery (color analyst) and Jay Bilas (the first two did the Villanova/Notre Dame contest on Saturday).

The Viewpoint on the #7 Pittsburgh Panthers

Rankings - The Pittsburgh Panthers leapt from #9 in the AP poll on Monday, January 22, to #7 in the latest poll, released Monday, January 29. With two victories, they flip-flopped with previous #7 Oregon, now #9, and also climbed over former #6 Texas A&M, now #10.

Coach - Jamie Dixon (4th season as head coach, 8th including tenure as a Pittsburgh assistant), 95-25 record as head coach.

2006-07 season - 7-1 Big East (1st place of 16 schools), 19-3 overall, after a dominating 72-46 blowout win over St. John's at home on Saturday.

Pitt opened the season in November, at #4 in the AP poll, and has yet to fall out of the Top 10 this season. (One elusive goal: many Pitt teams, including this year's, have reached #2 in the AP poll, but none has ever reached #1 in program history.) They are in excellent shape for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This program - moribund in the mid-to-late 1990s - has resurrected itself in the 21st century. A victory over Villanova on Monday, would mark the sixth straight season (first under now-UCLA coach Ben Howland, and now Jamie Dixon) that Pittsburgh will have won 20 games. Over the past six seasons, up to and including January 27, Pittsburgh has a winning percentage of .809 - third in the nation, trailing only Duke and Gonzaga.

The Panthers roared out of the gate with an 11-0 start, and have continued to have tremendous success this season. All three of their losses have been to Top 25 teams, with two of them on the road.

Pittsburgh's first two victories were posted against Western Michigan and Delaware State in the first Maggie Dixon Classic, held in West Point, NY. The reason for the tournament: Maggie Dixon was the youngest sister of Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. She was the head coach of the women's basketball team at Army, and took the team to the NCAA tournament in 2006, the West Point women's first-ever trip there. (During the NCAA tournament, in fact, CBS did a feature story on the Dixon siblings, who were the first brother and sister to coach teams in the NCAA tournament in the same season.) She tragically passed away on April 6, 2006.

Pitt then hosted its own eight-team holiday tournament, the First Commonwealth Colonial Athletic Association Classic, which the Panthers - not surprisingly - won. The Panthers bested Northeastern, Massachusetts, Oakland, and Florida State. They traveled down to Auburn and won, defeated crosstown rival Duquesne back in Pittsburgh, and completed their 11-0 start with a win @ Buffalo.

Their first loss came at then-#7 Wisconsin on December 16. After the fall to the Badgers, Pitt then stumbled at then-#15 Oklahoma State, falling in double overtime, 95-89.

After starting with an 11-2 record, the Panthers have now won eight of their last nine. Victories have come over Dayton and Florida A&M in nonconference play, followed by five consecutive Big East triumphs: @ Syracuse, USF, @ DePaul, Georgetown, and Connecticut. On January 21, they were upended by then-#24 Marquette at the Petersen Events Center in overtime, 77-74. But the Panthers rebounded to win @ Cincinnati, and its most recent victory over St. John's.

The 7-1 start in Big East competition matches Pitt's best-ever start, in their quarter-century of Big East play - the 2003-04 team also started 7-1, and thus a win over 'Nova would mark Pitt's best BE start ever.

Pittsburgh Panthers Starters/Rotation


# 33 Aaron Gray - 7/0 - Center - Senior - 14.7 points/9.8 rebounds/1.6 blocks in 28.2 minutes (Emmaus, PA)

After playing sparingly during his first two seasons at Pitt, Gray emerged last season as a star. Gray's numbers are even more impressive, given that he only averages 28 minutes a game. Of Pitt's 22 contests to date, he has posted 10 double-doubles, and he probably would have had more than 10 if Pitt had been facing tougher opponents in December.

However, Gray plays a lot more against Big East opponents, unsurprisingly. Worth noting: Gray is difficult to foul out; it hasn't happened yet this season, and there have been only four games where he has amassed even four fouls.

#14 Levon Kendall - 6/10 - Forward - Senior - 5.4 points/5.2 rebounds/2.0 assists in 26.8 minutes (Vancouver, British Columbia)

The one of least concern of the five starters. Although a starter, he really should be considered one of the off-the-bench players, in light of his minutes and offensive threat (he's only reached double figures, in four games this season, and has done so only once since November 29). Good, solid rebounder and defender.

(Credit to the Pittsburgh blog - - for this piece of trivia: Kendall had a bit part - known simply as "Additional Basketball Player" - in the 1997 film Air Bud. This fact was first reported in Sports Illustrated. )

#31 Mike Cook - 6/4 Guard/Forward - Junior - 11.9 points/3.0 rebounds/2.9 assists in 23.5 minutes (Philadelphia, Pa. - Friends Central)

Cook excelled for two seasons at East Carolina (he led the Pirates in scoring, reaching double figures 41 times), before transferring to Pittsburgh after the 2004-05 season. After sitting out last season (although permitted to practice with the Panthers), he has moved into the starting lineup as a junior. An accurate three-point shooter, at 42.9% this season.

Home Cooking

More on Cook's local connection, as basketball runs in the family:

Cook's mother, Dawn Hoover, played for Temple from 1979-83, and is now the girls' basketball coach at University City High School (where she had played basketball as well) in West Philadelphia. And his grandfather, Tom Hoover, played at Washington's Archbishop Carroll in Washington, before playing at - you guessed it - Villanova (!), in the early 1960s. Hoover was actually the first player drafted by the 76ers, when they arrived from Syracuse in 1963, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.

#2 Levance Fields - 5/10 - Point Guard - Sophomore - 9.3 points/3.1 rebounds/4.8 assists in 28.4 minutes (Brooklyn, NY)

Fields went through a torrid streak in December and early January, scoring in double figures in seven straight games. Since then, he's tailed off, not reaching 10 or more points in five of the next six (the lone exception being @ Cincinnati on January 24, when he lit up the Bearcats for 18). However, Fields' role is to run the point, not to score, although he's a good perimeter shooter. He has an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2.5/1.

#22 Antonio Graves - 6/3 - Shooting Guard - Senior - 10.2 points/2.0 rebounds/2.3 assists in 27.6 minutes (Mansfield, OH)

Graves has drastically improved from his junior year, when he was a mediocre shooter (37.8% from the floor, 28% from three-point range). This year, he's a great one (48.3% from the floor, and a stunning 50% from three point range). One reason may be his selectivity from long range - he doesn't take a lot of three-pointers (only 2.9 3FGA/game), but the ones he has taken have fallen consistently.

Off the Bench

#4 Ronald Ramon - 6/1 - Point Guard - Junior - 9.4 points/1.9 rebounds/2.7 assists in 22.9 minutes/game (Bronx, NY)

Ramon has played significant minutes, since his arrival in Pittsburgh; even as a freshman point guard, he played 26.1 minutes/game. He's more turnover-prone than Fields, though playing almost as many minutes. He's a significant perimeter threat (40.4%) and is also an outstanding foul shooter, making more than 81% of his FTAs.

#5 Tyrell Biggs - 6/8 - Forward - Sophomore - 4.2 points/2.5 rebounds in in 15.6 minutes/game (Nanuet, NY)

Biggs didn't play much as a freshman. This season, his minutes/game average is inflated by the fact that he played a lot against cupcakes in December. In Big East play, his playing time has steadily declined. Of Pitt's eight previous BE games, there were only three in which Biggs played more than nine minutes, and two of them were in blowout victories over South Florida and against St. John's. Don't expect to see him much.

#23 Sam Young - 6/6 - Forward - Freshman - 6.1 points/2.6 rebounds in 14.4 minutes/game (Clinton, MD)

A good rebounder, relative to how little he plays. Of particular concern to the Villanova staff, is the fact that he has occasional spark from three-point range, especially in the last two games @ Cincinnati and St. John's. In each, Young exploded for four three-pointers, connecting on eight of his 15 attempts. Earlier this year, he actually hit seven out of ten against Dayton on December 29. Should Pitt need a three-pointer down the stretch, Young will likely come in as an additional outside shooter.

#1 Keith Benjamin - 6/2 - Guard - Junior - 5.2 points in 12.8 minutes/game (Mt. Vernon, NY)

Benjamin is the eighth of the nine Panthers in the rotation, who has never played more than 18 minutes in any game this year. Probably just comes in to give the starting guards a rest.

Another Philadelphia connection - walk-on junior Maurice Polen attended West Philadelphia High, and was coached there by former Panther Gerald Jordan, who played from 1995-1997.

Overall Analysis of the Panthers

Dixon has a very deep bench, with nine Panthers featured regularly in the rotation. Moreover, all nine play a considerable amount of time, emphasizing team concept over selfish play. Star Aaron Gray averages only 29 minutes/game (tops on the team), while Keith Benjamin, who ranks lowest in minutes/game, still plays a respectable 12 minutes per contest.

As a result, Pittsburgh is a very well-disciplined, well-coached team, which leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, one of the key factors in their outstanding record and lofty national ranking. The other is relentless defense, which has held 19 of its 22 opponents under 70 points. Those elements are a formula for a great many victories.

The Panthers were selected by the Big East coaches as conference champions in the preseason poll, garnering 10 of the 16 first-place ballots (Georgetown was the next-highest selection, with four first-place votes), and Gray was the preseason selection as Big East Player of the Year. (Gray had initially declared for the NBA draft, but ultimately decided to return to Pitt for his senior season.) Both the Panthers as a whole, and Gray in particular, have lived up to that early acclaim. As noted above, Gray's averaging a double-double, with 14.8 pts, 10.4 rebounds per contest, and also blocked 34 shots. Will Sheridan will need to contain him, with help from Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham.

Three other Panther starters (all but Kendall) are legitimate three-point threats, and will try prevent Jay Wright from ordering the 'Nova defense to collapse around Gray. Levance Fields runs the point extraordinarily well, with an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio of over 2.5/1. Pittsburgh has a great point guard, a great center, great depth, and a diversity of offensive weapons. All told, it's a vast arsenal, one which Villanova will be challenged to overcome.

Villanova/Pittsburgh Series History

Monday's game will be the 55th between the schools, in a series which began in 1960. Villanova leads the series 29-25, and the schools have split the last ten meetings. That latter fact is a little misleading, because Pittsburgh was in the other Big East division for its renaissance, and Villanova was fortunate in often missing them on the schedule.

During the Jay Wright era, he has faced Pittsburgh half a dozen times, going 2-4:

Groundhog Day, 2002 - @ Pitt - 71-59 loss.

March 9, 2003 - This game was legendary for taking place after the phone-code access scandal decimated Villanova, at the end of a highly disappointing season, the year the freshman quartet of Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Curtis Sumpter and Jason Fraser arrived on the Main Line. With a skeleton team of six players at the (one-third-full) Wachovia Center for the regular season finale, Wright's gallant Wildcats nearly stunned a top-10 Pitt squad, in what would have been among the greatest upsets in Big East history had it taken place. Wright employed the stallball tactics learned from his mentor Rollie Massimino, but Pitt ultimately prevailed, 56-54. (Sumpter, a fifth-year senior, is the only Wildcat left on the squad who participated in that magnificent effort.)

March 6, 2004 - @ Pitt - 59-45 loss.

February 20, 2005 - Wright finally beats the Panthers, 80-72.

March 10, 2005 - In the rematch in the Big East tournament, 'Nova wins again, 67-58.

March 10, 2006 - One year later, to the day, Pitt tops 'Nova, 68-54, in the BE tournament semifinals. The teams did not meet in the regular season. That game was the occasion when Allan Ray suffered a grievous eye injury early in the second half.

Villanova Update

The Wildcats (3-4 Big East, 14-6 overall) are coming off a difficult 66-63 loss @ Notre Dame on Saturday. It was a game which they let slip away in the final minutes, after leading 60-57. ND went on a 9-0 run down the stretch to hang on and split the season series. (Please see the accompanying Notre Dame recap for more on the game.)

Villanova will be returning to the Wachovia Center for the second time in nine days, after upsetting then-#21 Texas last Saturday, January 20. The Wildcats received votes in both polls released on Monday, January 22. In the more reliable AP poll, Villanova received 46 votes (#29), while in the less reliable ESPN/USA Today poll, the Wildcats received 30 votes (#27). In the Monday, January 29 poll, they will receive some votes, although the loss to Notre Dame probably means that they won't crack the Top 25 just yet. A victory over top-10 Pitt would all but ensure a NCAA bid, as long as Villanova can make it to 8-8 in league play.

(Update on Monday afternoon, January 29, with the latest AP poll:

The Wildcats lost some support over the weekend from AP voters, after winning @ Providence and narrowly losing @ now-#21 Notre Dame. They received just eight votes, down from 46 votes the previous week, and saw their de facto "ranking" in the "Also Receiving Votes" category plunge from #29, all the way down to #43.

Fortunately, Villanova still has a very formidable RPI of ranking of #16, according to RPI guru Jerry Palm, who announces results each Monday, in alignment with the major polls. Moreover, their RPI will continue to rise as more and more BE opponents are added into the mix, such as tonight's contest with #4-RPI-ranked Pittsburgh. )

The most encouraging news was that Curtis Sumpter not only played in South Bend, but excelled, appearing to have nearly fully recovered from his bone bruise suffered in the first ND game, at the Pavilion on Wednesday, January 17.

I'll have a full recap after the game.

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

'Cats Can't Hold On Down the Stretch, Fall @ #22 Notre Dame, 66-63

by Craig Dimitri

The Wildcats could have virtually secured a bid in the NCAA tournament, with a sweep of #22 Notre Dame, over the course of the past 10 days. Unfortunately, Villanova went cold after building a 60-57 lead down the stretch, allowing a 9-0 Fighting Irish run and falling behind, 66-63. ND tried very hard to give away the game, after leading 66-60 in the final minute, committing three fouls and turning over the ball in the backcourt. As a result, Villanova ended up with a possession - in the Notre Dame half of the court, no less - with 18 seconds left, trailing by just three points. These mistakes thus permitted Curtis Sumpter a perfectly clean look at the top of the key in the final seconds, trailing just 66-63 - but it didn't go down, and ND escaped with a split of the season series. The Wildcats fell to 3-4 Big East, 14-6 overall. Notre Dame improved to 5-3 Big East, 17-4 overall.

Some Highlights of the Game Itself

At around the 9:30 point of the first half – there was a wild fracas after a rebound got loose around midcourt, indicating hustle on both sides.

With a little less than nine minutes to go, Mike Nardi foolishly picks up his second foul, trying to draw a charge on Russell Carter driving down the lane.

Shortly after that, there was an incredibly athletic block by Carter on Will Sheridan's powerful move to the hoop, pinning the ball to the backboard. Fortunately, Villanova retained possession of the ball because Carter was standing on the line when he pinned it. That triggered the under-8-minute TV timeout.

ND tried a press, with Nardi on the bench for a brief spell, but it backfired, with Jackson picking up his second foul trying to draw a charge on Reynolds. He had to stay in the game, however, since Kyle McAlarney, the starting point guard, is under suspension for the semester due to his arrest on marijuana charges in late December. In retrospect, Villanova’s failure to foul out Jackson (he ended the game with just three fouls), was an important lapse.

There was a great steal by Reynolds, picking Carter's pocket, and then Reynolds was tripped on the other end around 6:40, another foul on ND.

Late in the first half, Kurz was whistled for an offensive foul in lane, which nullified a potential traditional 3 point play, as his basket went in. It was the sort of play that is a momentum shifter, and had Villanova won it would have been cited after the game, as such.

Considering the track meet of the first contest at the Pavilion – which ‘Nova won 102-87 - the game was remarkably low-scoring, in the first half. Villanova made only six of its first 25 shots, before a Nardi jumper boosted its lead to 19-16, where it stood at the under-4-minute timeout, at 3:41.

Villanova led 25-21 at halftime. The 21 points represented a season-low for the first half for Notre Dame - the previous low had been the 25 points, they had scored in the first half against Georgetown. For Villanova, Scottie Reynolds had 5 points, shooting 5-6 from the line, but 0-6 from the field. His offensive struggles would continue in the second half. The overall FG% was 27% for VU, 29% for ND; there was an 11-6 edge in offensive rebounds for VU. Falls was the only player on either team in double figures. To place it in context - during the first game at the Pavilion, it was 50-40 VU at halftime.

When play resumed, Wright called a quick timeout, after ND scored the first four points of the 2nd half in just 1:17, with the Wildcats also picking up three quick fouls in that 77 second span. These fouls would prove to be important. The Wildcats did not have the depth to have so many players in foul trouble so early. Moreover, the additional fouls also propelled Notre Dame into the double bonus more quickly – thus giving the Irish more free throws throughout the half. Their advantage in that category would prove to be the difference, in the three-point loss for the Main Liners.

The Joyce Center crowd really got into it at 50-46, after a triple by Carter around 8:46. Reynolds had a dozen points already, after being held w/o a field goal in the 1st half, and 'Nova had been threatening to pull away. Reynolds quickly dissipated the energy, though, by driving to the baseline, drawing a crowd of defenders and then dishing to Cunningham, who laid it in deftly.

Why Did Notre Dame Win?

Colin Falls. He scored 23 points while playing all 40 minutes.

Rob Kurz. The Montgomery County native recorded an exact double-double, with ten points and ten rebounds.

Devastating defense. The Wildcats shot only 33% from the floor, and 31.5% from beyond the arc. Notre Dame also effectively controlled Villanova’s best scorer, Sumpter. Sumpter finished with 11 points, but on miserable 3-13 shooting, the 13th unlucky shot being the one that did not tie the game at the buzzer. In contrast, Scottie Reynolds had a respectable 19 points, but as with Sumpter, he had a very difficult game, when it came to shooting percentage – the freshman connected on just five of his 14 field goal attempts, and eight of his points came from the free throw line.

Getting to the free throw line often, and delivering accurate shooting, once there. The Fighting Irish took 37 free throws (compared to just 24 for Villanova) and made 29, an impressive 78.4% that was literally the difference between victory and defeat. Ironically, the free throw disparity would have been even greater, if ND hadn’t fouled ‘Nova three times in the final minutes and provided the Wildcats seven additional free throws that they shouldn’t even have had.

Villanova wound up with a lot of players in foul trouble: Mike Nardi and Shane Clark eventually fouled out, while Will Sheridan and Dante Cunningham finished with four fouls. With Jay Wright using a de facto seven-man rotation, the Wildcats simply don’t have enough depth, to have so many players saddled with fouls.

But leaving all of the above negatives, aside:

The excruciating part of this loss is that the Wildcats still did many things right. Notre Dame’s offense didn’t run all that much better than ‘Nova’s – 35% from the floor, 25% from beyond the arc, while committing 18 turnovers. Russell Carter, their go-to player, had a game similar to Sumpter’s: 14 points on 3-11 shooting, with 7-8 FTs. Under those circumstances, wins usually take place. Villanova caught a break with ND’s inept handling of the end game, and had a reasonable chance of snatching victory nonetheless.

Next Up for the Wildcats

It doesn’t get any easier for ‘Nova, as the Wildcats return to action on Monday, January 29, at the Wachovia Center, taking on #9 Pittsburgh. Please see the detailed preview at the top of the page for more on this titanic clash with the current first-place Big East squad.

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

'Cats Can't Hold On Down the Stretch, Fall @ #22 Notre Dame, 66-63

by Craig Dimitri

The Wildcats could have virtually secured a bid in the NCAA tournament with a sweep of #22 Notre Dame, over the course of the past 10 days. Unfortunately, Villanova went cold after building a 60-57 lead down the stretch, allowing a 9-0 Fighting Irish run and falling 66-63. ND tried very hard to give away the game after leading 66-60 in the final minute, committing three fouls and turning over the ball in the backcourt. These mistakes permitted Curtis Sumpter a perfectly clean look at the top of the key in the final seconds, trailing just 66-63 - but it didn't go down, and ND escaped with a split of the season series.

A more detailed recap will come shortly.

Villanova returns to action on Monday, January 29, at the Wachovia Center, taking on #9 Pittsburgh.

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Preview of Wildcats @ Notre Dame, Saturday, January 27, 4 PM, ESPN2

by Craig Dimitri

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Series History

The series dates back to 1970, and Saturday's game marks the 29th meeting between the schools. Notre Dame is one of just three Big East teams that the Wildcats will face twice this season, under the new format. Villanova triumphed on January 17 at the Pavilion, only the second time Notre Dame had ever visited the on-campus venue (all but one of its previous appearances had been at the Palestra or the Wachovia Center). The other Pavilion meeting came on January 2, 1996, with Villanova winning easily, 76-57.

The Wildcats lead all-time, 16-12, and have also dominated the series since the Fighting Irish joined the Big East at the start of the 1995-96 season - the Wildcats have won 10 of the last 12 clashes.

The First Game - Wednesday, January 17 - Villanova 102, Notre Dame 87

Here are some noteworthy facts from that game. It is rare to play teams twice in one season nowadays, so it's worth examining in some detail.

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, and will not make the same mistake. In addition, with Sumpter injured and his minutes reduced accordingly, Cunningham will receive even more attention from the ND defense.

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.

2006-2007 season: 4-3 Big East, 16-4 overall.

Notre Dame sprinted to an outstanding start this season, winning 13 of its first 14 contests and leaping into the national rankings. The dozen-game winning streak was the first time ND had won 12 in a row, since the 1973-74 team did it twice. On December 11, the Irish reached the AP poll at #21, after being unranked throughout the 2005-06 season.

However, they have struggled somewhat since Big East play began. Of the 13-1 start, only the 13th win, vs. Louisville, was in conference play. After defeating the Cardinals, they have lost all three BE road games (@ Georgetown, @ Villanova, @ St. John's), while beating West Virginia and Seton Hall in South Bend.

Notre Dame Rotation

Tory Jackson
Russell Carter
Rob Kurz
Colin Falls
Luke Zeller
Luke Harangody

The Viewpoint From Behind Enemy Lines

Thanks to Matt L., the publisher of Black and Green Irish Men's Basketball Report (Notre Dame) for the following insights, from someone who blogs Notre Dame and really knows the team - his report is in italics:

1. How will the Irish start out?
In our three road losses, Notre Dame has fallen behind early and been unable to bounce back. At home, the start is usually the same, but it has been easier for them to recover. If ND can avoid falling behind big early, we have a good chance at winning.

2. Will Colin Falls make his first shot?
Senior shooting guard Colin Falls is the streakiest shooter I have ever seen. If he makes his first shot, he should go 6-7 or 7-8 from three point range. If he misses, he probably won't score more than 4 or 5 points. Notre Dame needs him to step up and be a consistent threat next to Russell Carter.

3. How will ND's bigs play?
Rob Kurz is a very reliable post player. He should be good for eight or nine rebounds and ten points. If he can open up the inside, our perimeter guys will be able to score more. Luke Harangody is a very talented freshman post. If he stays out of foul trouble and plays to his tremendous potential, the Irish have one of the best one-two punches in the Big East.

4. How will Tory Jackson handle the pressure?
Freshman point Jackson, McAlarney's replacement, is very, very talented, but has been known to make a lot of mistakes. If he can handle the ball well and make smart passes, the offense shouldn't miss a beat.
Notre Dame This Season

The biggest story has been the meteoric rise and demise of sophomore point guard Kyle McAlarney. He was a key starter during ND's nonconference success, playing superbly while starting in the first dozen contests - but he has subsequently been expelled from Notre Dame, never playing a minute in BE play this season. His ND career came to an abrupt end - the reason being, according to the Associated Press report on December 30, that McAlarney had been suspended, after being arrested on charges of possessing marijuana (ironically, immediately after scoring a career-high 21 points, in ND's 50-point blowout victory over Rider). On January 23, the AP reported that he had been told by Notre Dame, that he would not play during this semester. Finally, on Monday, January 22, prior to the team's departure to New York City to face St. John's, it was announced that McAlarney's days in blue and gold were over.

ND was 11-1 with McAlarney, and now 5-3 without him, although their struggles are probably due to the higher caliber of opponents in the conference, than the absence of McAlarney from the rotation. McAlarney's backup, Tory Jackson, has played well, since taking over the point guard duties.

ND has a deep bench, with eight players (excluding McAlarney) averaging at least 10 minutes a contest - and no player averaging more than 32.2 minutes/game. Moreover, five players are averaging double figures in points/game, a sign of unselfish play.

The biggest gun is Carter, an outstanding multidimensional player. He leads the team in scoring (18.7 points per game), three-point field goals (59), and steals (40), while also collecting 4.6 rebounds/contest. He is accurate from both beyond the arc and at the foul line, averaging 45% and 74%, respectively.

On the inside, ND's strength is junior Rob Kurz, who leads the squad with 8.8 rebounds/game and 35 blocked shots. He is also a threat from three-point range, averaging 42%. Kurz is from the Philadelphia region; he is from Lower Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County, and attended Penn Charter.

Harangody, a freshman, has been outstanding, garnering Big East rookie-of-the-week honors three times already, including two of the last three weeks. In ND's two home wins against Seton Hall and West Virignia last week, he averaged 11.5 points and 5 rebounds, thus warranting the recognition.

This season, Notre Dame has been invincible at the Joyce Center, having defeated all 13 opponents who have travelled there.

Villanova Update

The Wildcats fly into South Bend with a lot of momentum, having won three straight. After initially struggling in Big East play, losing three of their first four contests, they have now evened their conference mark at 3-3. Overall, the Wildcats are now 14-5, and well-positioned for another trip to the NCAA tournament.

The key question will be the availability of Curtis Sumpter, who did not play at all against Texas on Saturday, and played just sparingly against Providence on Tuesday night. The fifth-year senior is suffering from a deep bone bruise in his left tibia, and his availability is still questionable. But freshman point guard Scottie Reynolds has been awesome of late, and his emergence as an additional offensive weapon has compensated for Sumpter's injury.

I'll have a full recap after the game.

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

The State of the Villanova Program Is Strong - Villanova Brings Home Rare Win @ Providence, Triumphing 82-73

by Craig Dimitri

The Wildcats continued their torrid streak, winning their third straight contest on Tuesday night at Providence. It took place on the same evening as President George W. Bush delivered his penultimate State of the Union Address to the newly-Democratic Congress, and its equally-new Speaker of the House , Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. Surprisingly, Big East basketball was not entirely absent from the latter event - former Georgetown superstar Dikembe Mutombo was seated next to First Lady Laura Bush in the House gallery. Dikembe was praised by President Bush for his humanitarian and philanthropic efforts in his native Congo, as well as his decision to become an American citizen.

The Wildcats' victory snapped Providence's dozen-game home winning streak. Providence ranks among the most difficult home courts in the Big East - that is a primary reason why Villanova has such a dismal history at the Dunkin' Donuts Arena (nee Providence Civic Center). Providence is one of Villanova's most ancient rivals - the schools have clashed 81 times, with the first meeting all the way back in 1936. Villanova has also struggled mightily @ Providence, in this generation: even with Tuesday's victory, the Wildcats are just 3-13 in the Center since 1991.

Villanova improved its record to 3-3 Big East, 14-5 overall, while Providence fell to 3-3 Big East, 13-6 overall.

Although Villanova led just 41-36 at halftime (thanks to one of senior Mike Nardi's four triples, which came just four seconds prior to the buzzer), the winning margin of nine points was enough that the stretch run wasn't too stressful for the Villanova faithful. The Friars were never able to draw closer than four points down the stretch - the closest that they came was 76-72, after Geoff McDermott dunked off a steal with 1:28 to play. But subsequently, the Wildcats were able to corral key defensive rebounds and Providence coach Tim Welsh wisely surrendered, not bothering to foul during the final 30 seconds with his team trailing by nine.

Senior Mike Nardi's 19 points (16 of them in the first half) were a game-high, and freshman Scottie Reynolds continued his strong play with 18 points of his own. As for Providence, Sharaud Curry and Dwain Williams both contributed 18 points to lead the Friars. Its leading scorer, senior Herbert Hill, was reasonably contained by 'Nova's defense; he ended up scoring a dozen points, on only five field goal attempts.

The Wildcats will return to action on Saturday, January 27, at Notre Dame, with tip-off at 4 PM. Villanova will be looking to sweep the Fighting Irish, as the Wildcats riddled the Notre Dame defense on January 17 at the Pavilion, 102-87.

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

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Villanova Hooks 'Horns, Toppling #21 Texas, 76-69

by Craig Dimitri

On Saturday afternoon, at the Wachovia Center, Villanova acquired a high-profile, inter-sectional victory that could very well propel them into the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats triumphed over #21 Texas, 76-69, with CBS' cameras capturing it as one of the national games that afternoon. Most astounding of all, Villanova did so, without the services of its leading scorer, fifth-year senior Curtis Sumpter, who dressed- but did not play. (I speculate that there was no chance that he would play, but Jay Wright had him dress anyhow, in order to force Texas coach Rick Barnes into preparing for his potential entry into the game, even off the bench.) Sumpter is suffering from a bone bruise on his left tibia, which he incurred against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Freshman point guard Scottie Reynolds spearheaded the Villanova effort, turning in his second consecutive remarkable performance. After scoring a career-high 27 points in the victory over #20 Notre Dame on Wednesday, Reynolds nearly matched it by scoring 26 against the Longhorns. Most importantly, he made many key free throws down the stretch. Texas did not go quietly, cutting a 14-point deficit to two points, with 2:21 remaining. But Reynolds' clutch free throws kept the Longhorns at bay, and the freshman ultimately went a stellar 12-13 from the free throw line.

In addition, Sumpter's replacement, Shane Clark, was outstanding in the understudy role, finishing with a double-double: 11 points and a dozen rebounds. Finally, kudos go to Dante Cunningham, who finished with 16 points, as well as the day's most memorable play - a dunk over Durant to give 'Nova a 46-37 lead, and triggered a roar from the large Wachovia Center crowd.

On the defensive end, Villanova's defense clamped down effectively upon Texas' impact freshman, Kevin Durant, the team's clear star - the Longhorns lost all five starters from their team last year, thus creating a vacuum for a newcomer to score a lot of points. Durant had averaged 34 points over his last four games, but he was very effectively contained, and had one of the worst games of his brief collegiate career. Despite playing all 40 minutes, Durant scored only a dozen points - this marked only the third occasion this season, when a Texas opponent had held him under 20 points. Durant shot only 4-15 from the floor- and missed all six of his field goal attempts in the second half. And of those half a dozen shots - he took only a pair during the first 18 minutes of the second half. (Durant's struggles were partially offset, by an outstanding game from another freshman, guard D.J. Augustin. Augustin matched his career-high by scoring 25 points against 'Nova.) Overall, it was a great team defensive effort on Durant, an excellent example of Jay Wright's emphasis on defensive intensity.

Both teams' records now stand at 13-5, and both will probably make the NCAA tournament. But this game served as sweet revenge for 'Nova's defeat in Austin last season. Worth noting: It was a rare visit for Texas to Philadelphia. The Longhorns hadn't played here in over half a century - since the Truman adminstration, in fact, when they defeated St. Joseph's, 55-54, on December 18, 1948.

The Wildcats will now travel to Providence, to take on the Friars at the Dunkin' Donuts Center on Tuesday, January 23. The two schools did not meet in 2005-06, due to the expansion of the Big East. Villanova has historically struggled there, with a dismal record of 2-13 since 1991 in that venue.

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

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

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Villanova Succumbs at Syracuse, Falling 75-64

by Craig Dimitri

Curtis Sumpter continues to come up big - but Villanova continues to struggle in Big East play. The Wildcats lost for the third time in four tries in the league, falling @ Syracuse, 75-64, on Saturday, January 13. The Orangemen were led by Demetris Nichols, who scored 23 points, and Terrence Roberts, who had a monstrous double-double - 17 points and 14 rebounds. Two other Orangemen, Andy Rautins and Darryl Watkins, also finished with 11 points.

Sumpter had a stellar game, finishing with two dozen points and a dozen rebounds, and he had some help: Mike Nardi added 17 points, and Scottie Reynolds contributed 14 points prior to fouling out with just over two minutes to play. Their play was the reason why the Wildcats trailed by just four at halftime; Sumpter had 11 points in just the first seven minutes. But Syracuse bolted out to a 14-0 run, early in the second half, dooming the Wildcats' hopes. 'Nova never drew closer than nine points for the remainder of the contest.

Syracuse improved to 3-1 Big East, 14-4 overall. Villanova slumped to 1-3 Big East, 11-5 overall. The Wildcats return to the Pavilion to take on #20 Notre Dame, on Wednesday, January 17.

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

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Villanova Garners Ugly Win @ Georgetown, 56-52 - Remains Unbeaten (6-0!) @ Verizon Center!

Villanova's amazing success at the Verizon (nee MCI) Center in Washington, the Hoyas' homecourt since 1998, remains difficult to explain. The only theory I can offer, is that perhaps given Villanova's checkered history of phone-call scandals, from 1996 to 2003:

that the basketball gods have decided - in partial compensation for those scandals - that the only venue in the Big East, named after a phone company, be one in which the Wildcats are destined never to lose...

On Monday, January 8, the Wildcats continued their pristine record at the Verizon Center, outlasting Georgetown once again, its sixth straight victory there. Villanova was the opponent when Georgetown opened the building in 1998, handing the Hoyas their first defeat there - and have now repeated the feat five times.

Most of the victories have been ugly, and this one was no exception, with the 56-52 score reflective of 1980s-golden-age-Big-East basketball than of 21st-century speed and highlight reels. But a win's a win, and Villanova especially needs road victories to qualify for the NCAA tournament. It was the Wildcats' first victory in conference play, and their record now stands at 1-2 Big East; Georgetown fell to 1-1 Big East, and both schools now have 11-4 overall records.

Scottie Reynolds had 16 points to lead 'Nova (and 16 points is a lot more significant when the score is in the 50s), and Shane Clark added 14. The young players' success offset a rare off-night from Curtis Sumpter, who scored only five points on 2-8 shooting. Georgetown's star didn't shine, either - leading scorer Roy Hibbert had only two points and didn't even take a field goal attempt. Another freshman stepped up for them - DaJuan Summers led the Hoyas with 14 points.

Georgetown appeared to have a secure lead at 33-24 in the second half. But then - in typical 1980s fashion - the Hoyas failed to score a single point for over six minutes, permitting the Wildcats to battle their way back into the contest. And accordingly, win at Georgetown - AGAIN!

Villanova returns to action on Saturday, January 13, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

Questions? Comments? Information? You can e-mail

Sunday, January 07, 2007

DePaul Downs 'Nova at Pavilion, 73-65

On Saturday, January 6, the DePaul Blue Demons won their first game in metropolitan Philadelphia since the Bicentennial year of 1976 (although in fairness, they rarely get opportunities to do so), by triumphing over 'Nova at the Pavilion, 73-65.

It was a rare Pavilion loss for 'Nova, who can usually bank on victories at the cozy on-campus venue. Of more troubling concern, is the fact that DePaul is neither ranked, nor a power, this year (this victory raised their record to only 1-1 Big East, 10-6 overall). Moreover, Villanova has no fewer than five home games scheduled, at the more visitor-friendly Wachovia Center this year, including four Big East contests. Consequently, there are only four Big East home games at the Pavilion, and a visit from unimposing DePaul was thus a game Villanova needed to have in the win column. This was a game that most Villanova fans would have pencilled in as a victory, to be sure.

But it didn't happen. DePaul was paced by Sammy Mejia's 23 points, Wilson Chandler's double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds), as well as 13 points from Draelon Burns (a great name!). For Villanova, Scottie Reynolds continues to play well, scoring 25 points. Curtis Sumpter (15 points) and Mike Nardi (13 points) also reached double figures.

Villanova fell to 0-2 Big East, 10-4 overall. (Although this really isn't a fair comparison, 'Nova had only five losses during the entirety of last season's magical run to the Elite Eight and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament). The Wildcats will travel to Washington to take on Georgetown, on Monday, January 8.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Villanova Falters at #25 West Virginia, 67-56

by Craig Dimitri

West Virginia's homecourt in Morgantown is probably the toughest homecourt in the Big East, and few opponents emerge with a victory. When the Mountaineers are going well, as they are now, they're a really tough road game, and Wednesday's game was no exception. Villanova dropped a 67-56 decision in Morgantown, in its Big East opener; the Wildcats are now 10-3 overall. The 56 points represented Villanova's lowest scoring output this season.

#25 West Virginia raised its record to 2-0 Big East, 12-1 overall. Frank Young posted career-highs with 25 points and eight triples, while Joe Alexander (16 points) and Alex Ruoff (11 points) reached double-figures.

For the Wildcats, Curtis Sumpter once again led the way, with 21 points. After being contained for just five points in the opening half, VU began pounding the ball inside to him, and he ended up with 16 in the second half, prior to fouling out in the final minute of play. Mike Nardi, with a dozen points, was the only other Wildcat to reach double figures.

The Wildcats will stage their Big East opener on Saturday, January 6, against DePaul at the Pavilion.

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