To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-
Part 2 of the recap of the glorious victory over UCLA... Part 3 will be along later, and you can also read Part 1, the initial Villanova/UCLA recap...
Villanova dominated all aspects of play today. UCLA's final lead today was 6-5, at the 16:56 mark when Josh Shipp converted two free throws. The final tie was at 9-9, after Nicola Dragovic hit a three-pointer off an assist from Shipp, with 15:46 to play.
Villanova took the lead for good when Dante Cunningham broke the 9-9 deadlock with a jump shot, 17 seconds later, putting the Wildcats up 11-9. It was the beginning of a 11-0 run that established Villanova in complete control, in the midst of the first half. The 11-0 run culminated in a triple by Corey Stokes, assisted by Corey Fisher, giving the Wildcats a 20-9 lead.
With 12:16 to play, UCLA's James Keefe rebounded a missed layup from Jrue Holiday, and slammed it to break the run and make it 20-11. But the Wildcats responded with another 8-0 run, which had a fitting end - Antonio Pena missed a shot, Dwayne Anderson rebounded it and then dunked it with authority. It was now 28-11 with 10:13 to play.
While I had no sense of certainty of victory at the time, obviously, those twin bursts look different in retrospect. When combined to make it a 19-2 Villanova run over a 5:16 span, the Wildcats never looked back. Their lead was 17 points; the Bruins would never get closer than a dozen points for the rest of the game.
Think about this for a moment. The sixth-seeded Bruins were the Pac-10 runner-up, and were brimming with postseason experience. They had been to three straight Final Fours - while many of the players from those teams were gone, their replacements had still experienced them, as had the coaching staff. Their newcomers were also lauded with many accolades as blue-chip prospects.
In spite of all of these factors, the Wildcats simply steamrolled UCLA today. They seized control with a 17-point lead midway through the first half, and never permitted the Bruins to pull closer than 12 points, at any point for the remainder of the game.
It was a level of performance that I would have thought unthinkable, after the debacle of the first half against #14 American on Thursday evening. On Thursday, the Wildcats had trailed American by 10 points at halftime, 14 points early in the second half, and by eight with just 11:21 to play, before rallying to win by a deceptively wide 13-point margin...
After the Wildcats took the 28-11 lead at the midpoint of the first half, they actually doubled up UCLA at one point. Shane Clark slammed home a dunk, assisted by Corey Fisher, to balloon the lead to 38-19 with 5:17 to play. At this point, the Bruins developed their only momentum of the contest.
Shipp and Darren Collison combined to score seven consecutive points, pulling UCLA to within 38-26 at the 2:53 mark. The Wildcats quickly quelled the challenge, though, trotting into the locker room at halftime with a comfortable 44-31 advantage.
Nor did UCLA truly stay within striking distance, after play resumed. The Wildcats outscored the Bruins 13-4 at the beginning of the second half, with the end of the run coming when Fisher was fouled by Dragovic while laying the ball into the net. Fisher converted the traditional three-point play to increase the Wildcats' lead to 22 points, 57-35, with 16:30 to play.
For the remainder of the contest (i.e., virtually the entire second half), the Wildcats' lead never dipped below 16 points. It fluctuated between 16 and 25 points, with the zenith coming when Scottie Reynolds hit one of two free throws, with 3:40 to play, making the score 86-61. UCLA outscored Villanova 8-3 the rest of the way, to leave the final margin at 89-69, 20 points. Unlike Thursday's game, however, Villanova's margin of victory was a precisely accurate barometer of the Wildcats' level of play in the game. It was a thorough thrashing of UCLA, a very talented and accomplished opponent, which has been an elite program for decades.
I will have Part 3 of the UCLA recap up later, and eventually, there will be material on Villanova's upcoming Sweet 16 battle with #2 Duke in Boston on Thursday... so keep checking back...
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