Monday, January 25, 2010

Villanova / Notre Dame Rivalry History, Since ND Joined the Big East in 1995-96

To the Wildcat faithful-

As the #4 Wildcats prepare to take on Notre Dame at the Wachovia Center on Wednesday at 7 PM, I thought it might be a good idea to take a detailed look at the Rivalry History, since Notre Dame joined the Big East for non-football sports, back in 1995-96...

Villanova and Notre Dame, of course, had met many times prior to that season, when coach Digger Phelps (now, of course, far better known as the ESPN analyst), was at the helm.  Notre Dame led the all-time series, 10-5, prior to Notre Dame joining the conference.  However, Villanova currently leads all-time, 17-14.

Surprisingly, the schools did not meet for the first time, until 1970.  On January 10 of that year, the host Irish won a thriller in overtime, 94-92.  The teams would meet every year for the next 14 seasons.  Eight of those games were at the historic Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, with Villanova winning just three of those contests, against five defeats.  Notre Dame's final Palestra visit was on January 7, 1983, with the host Wildcats triumphing, 61-55.

The 15th annual (and final) non-Big East regular-season meeting was at Notre Dame on January 21, 1984, with the Irish winning 81-68 (the year before Villanova won the national championship).  It is not clear, however, why the series (which had been an annual game since 1970) suddenly abruptly ended.

(Update: A commenter below offers this theory, as to why the series suddenly ended:
"If memory serves me correct the Villanova-Notre Dame series ended in 1984, because VU coach Rolllie Massimino was not happy that ND coach Digger Phelps offered to have his team replace Villanova in a scheduled Sunday afternoon national tv game in Chapel Hill when a blizzard the Philadelphia area, almost prevented the Villanova team from getting down to North Carolina to meet the Heels."
I believe that his theory is likely to be correct, as I explain in a comment below...)

After that contest, the teams did not meet for another dozen years, until Notre Dame joined the Big East for the 1995-96 season.

So, looking back:

January 2, 1996 - The Pavilion - Villanova 76, Notre Dame 57

Alvin Williams sets a career-high with 22 points on 8-11 shooting, while Kerry Kittles adds 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, and Jason Lawson contributed 16 points and eight rebounds, as the Wildcats improve to 12-1 on the year.  Steve Lappas was on the sideline for Villanova, and John McLeod for Notre Dame. 

January 14, 1997 - Joyce Center - #16 Villanova 68, Notre Dame 57

During the "Tim Thomas Year", the freshman had 18 points and 14 rebounds for Villanova.  Players for Notre Dame included Pat Garrity (the top scorer in the conference), Jimmy Dillon, Pete Miller, and Admore White. 

February 16, 1997 - Then-CoreStates Center - Villanova 75, Notre Dame 70

This was Villanova's first-ever victory at this venue, after dropping the first two contests to Duke in December, and Syracuse in January.  Garrity led Notre Dame with 22 points, while Antoni Wyche nearly stole it for the Golden Domers at the end.

Williams led Villanova, with a game-high 25 points and seven assists, with Thomas adding 22 points.

January 28, 1998 - Joyce Center - Villanova 81, Notre Dame 61

In what has been Villanova's only losing season since 1993, up to the present year, a bright spot was a lopsided road win at Notre Dame.  It was even more shocking, as Notre Dame had defeated a ranked Syracuse team by 20 points, the previous week.  Brian Lynch had 16 points on 7-12 shooting, John Celestand (now a frequent analyst for Villanova games on ESPN+ syndication), came off the bench for 15 points and issued seven assists.  Rafal Bigus added 10 points and nine rebounds.

Garrity struggled for Notre Dame, scoring 14 points on only 4-13 shooting, one of his worst games of that season.  Key players in defending him were Howard Brown, Zeffy Penn, Malik Allen, and T. J. Caouette.

For Notre Dame, Martin Ingelsby (the son of Wildcats legend Tom Ingelsby), scored 10 points, while Keith Friel added 14 points. 

January 7, 1999 - Joyce Center - Villanova 93, Notre Dame 62

This was a regular-season contest played on a Thursday afternoon - because of a massive blizzard which hit the eastern U.S.  The clash had originally been scheduled for the preceding Saturday, January 2.

This was a bad break for Notre Dame, as attendance at the Joyce Center was low.  And Villanova made the most of the opportunity, crushing the Irish by 31 points on the road.

Villanova hit 16 triples, a Joyce Center record for a Notre Dame opponent.  Celestand had five of them, making all of his three-point attempts, and finished with a game-high 18 points.

The Wildcats improved to 11-4, 2-3 Big East, and the game was a major turning point for that team, which eventually reached the NCAA tournament as a #8 seed, with a stunning upset over #8 St. John's at the Pavilion.  The loss to #9 Mississippi would turn out to be Lappas's final NCAA tournament game as a coach; he finished with a record of 2-4 in four appearances.

Troy Murphy had 17 points to lead the Irish.  For Villanova, Brown had 15 points, Lynch 14 points, and Jermaine Medley, 13 points. 

January 16, 1999 - The-then First Union Center - Villanova 86, Notre Dame 65

Villanova once more swept the two-game season series.  The most notable aspect of this contest was the fact that the Wildcats opened the game with a 18-0 run and never looked back.  On its initial dozen possessions, Notre Dame missed eight field goal attempts while committing five miscues (they would eventually commit 21 turnovers).  Brown led the Wildcats with 19 points.  Celestand had 16 points, five assists, and no turnovers.  Allen, having recently shifted from the "four" to the "five" spot, had a career-high eight blocks to go with 14 points. 

Notre Dame was hampered by the unavailability of Murphy, who did not make the trip to Philadelphia, due to a sprained ankle.  David Graves, Notre Dame's second-leading scorer, was also struggling with a shoulder injury, and missed 10 of 11 shots, finishing with just four points.  Freshman Harold Swanagan set career-highs with 22 points and 15 rebounds.

February 8, 2000 - Then-First Union Center - Villanova 86, Notre Dame 69

This was Matt Doherty's only time facing Villanova as the mentor at Notre Dame.  And although nobody knew it at the time, this was the final time that Lappas would face Notre Dame; he won all seven of his meetings with them.

Sophomore Brooks Sales effectively contained Murphy, holding him to a season-low 14 points on 5-15 shooting, including no second-half field goals, and forcing Murphy to commit half a dozen turnovers.  (He had averaged a conference-best 23.6 points heading into the contest.)  Murphy did have a superb game on the glass, finishing with 16 rebounds.

Sales also had a double-double with 11 points and a dozen rebounds.  Notre Dame permitted 11 Villanova triples, and committed 26 turnovers.  Freshman Gary Buchanan had 16 points and half a dozen assists, with Lynch adding a dozen points of his own.

Doherty, for some reason, opted to prolong the game needlessly by ordering fouls on 11 consecutive Wildcats possessions during garbage time.  The three Philadelphia players for ND: freshman Matt Carroll (from the Philadelphia suburbs) had 17 points to lead the Irish, with Ingelsby scoring four points and Dillon (from Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem), two points.
January 6, 2002 - Joyce Center - Villanova 74, Notre Dame 72

Jay Wright, facing Notre Dame for the first time, picked up where Lappas left off.  Derrick Snowden hit the game-winning basket for the Wildcats with 26.5 seconds to play, then successfully defended Notre Dame's Chris Thomas, who missed ND's final shot with four seconds remaining.

With 8:17 to play, Villanova had led 63-49, before the Irish rallied to take a brief 72-71 lead, before Snowden's heroics.  Snowden scored 17 points on 7-11 shooting, but committed seven turnovers against one assist.  Ricky Wright, a native of East Chicago, scored 17 points as well, on 7-12 shooting, and garnered 11 rebounds for a double-double.

For Notre Dame, Graves led with a game-high 22 points, while Ryan Humphrey had 18 points, but shot only 6-15 from the free throw line; Humphrey's heave at the buzzer did not go in.

Villanova had now won all eight Big East meetings, and seemed invincible against Notre Dame.  The Wildcats now owned a 13-10 advantage all time, after being down 10-5 prior to Big East competition against the Golden Domers.

The series took a one-year hiatus during the 2002-03 season, due to the Big East's fluctuating membership and divisional alignment.  With Villanova and Notre Dame in opposite divisions, not every team played every other, and so the teams didn't meet. 

January 10, 2004 - Wachovia Center - Notre Dame 82, Villanova 78

Notre Dame finally won one, in front of a soulless Center with just 14,000 people, in Wright's third season.  The Wildcats were unable to hold a 70-64 lead down the stretch, and Thomas hit a huge three-pointer with just over two minutes to play to tie the contest. He would finish with a game-high 26 points, with 21 coming after intermission.  Torrian Jones, who attended nearby Pennsbury High in Bucks County, had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Allan Ray and Randy Foye scored 18 points apiece to lead the Wildcats, while Jason Fraser grabbed an incredible, career-high 17 rebounds, to go with three blocks.  Mike Nardi had 15 points, and Curtis Sumpter chipped in 14 points.

January 8, 2005 - Joyce Center - Notre Dame 78, Villanova 72

This was Wright's first strong year at the helm of the Wildcats.  After reaching the NIT in his first three years, this team would be the first Wildcat squad he took to the NCAA tournament, where they reached the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual winner North Carolina in the Sweet 16, in Syracuse.

Villanova entered South Bend with a seven-game winning streak, but Notre Dame had also won four in a row.  And with Sumpter out, due to a knee injury he sustained at a Joyce Center practice, Notre Dame's chances were improved.  And the Irish capitalized, delighting the Joyce Center crowd, which had never seen the Irish defeat Villanova there (the Wildcats had won all four previous meetings in the venue).

Thomas had 25 points, and delivered the decisive blow in the final minute.  With the shot clock about to expire, and defended by Nardi, Thomas sank a basket to boost Notre Dame's lead to 74-70 with 57 seconds to play.  The key to ND's victory?  Going a perfect 19-19 from the line. 

Chris Quinn and Colin Falls each added 16 points for Notre Dame.  Foye finished with 26 points to lead the Wildcats; Fraser had five points, six blocks, and ten rebounds, filling in for Sumpter.

January 26, 2005 - Wachovia Center - Villanova 65, Notre Dame 60

The Wildcats avenged their defeat in South Bend 18 days earlier, triumphing in South Philadelphia once more.  They had a great deal of momentum, having clobbered then-#2 Kansas in their previous game, the turning point in the Wright era - and it carried over against the Irish.  Notre Dame led 37-30 at halftime, but Villanova took control in the final dozen minutes (despite once more not having Sumpter, due to the flu). 

Ray had a game-high 23 points, but Foye scored his 1,000th point, en route to finishing with 20 points - notably, Villanova committed just five turnovers.  Torin Francis led Notre Dame with 19 points.

January 28, 2006 - Joyce Center - #6 Villanova 72, Notre Dame 70

With 1.7 seconds remaining, Kyle Lowry tipped in a missed layup by Foye (who had 18 points on just 5-18 shooting) to foil an upset bid by Notre Dame - after Francis had just tied the game on a layup on the previous possession.  The Irish had a 24-4 run in the second half, to overcome a 17-point Villanova lead, and led by three with a single minute remaining - but it wasn't enough to pull off the upset.

Ray was incredible, with a game-high 23 points on 9-16 shooting, 10 rebounds, and four assists.  Nardi was almost as good, scoring 22 points on 7-17 shooting.  For Notre Dame, Quinn had a team-high 18 points on 6-11 shooting, with Russell Carter scoring 14 points (including 8-11 from the line), Kyle McAlarney coming off the bench for 13 points in just 22 minutes, and Francis with 11 points.

January 17, 2007 - The Pavilion - Villanova 102, #20 Notre Dame 87

In Notre Dame's only visit to the Pavilion - before or since - the intimidating 'Nova Nation fans helped power the Wildcats to an upset of #20 Notre Dame, clearing the century mark for the first time against the Irish, Big East or otherwise.  It also marked Villanova's 11th victory in 13 Big East games against Notre Dame.

Freshman Scottie Reynolds exploded for 27 points on 8-12 shooting, including 9-10 from the line.  Sumpter had 21 points and half a dozen rebounds, Dante Cunningham had 19 points and nine rebounds, while Nardi had 18 points and seven assists.

For Notre Dame, Carter led with 26 points, Falls added 17, freshman Luke Harangody had 13 points on 5-8 shooting, and Rob Kurz chipped in 11 points and half a dozen rebounds.

January 27, 2007 - Joyce Center - #21 Notre Dame 66, Villanova 63

Ten days later, Notre Dame avenged the Pavilion defeat with a narrow three-point victory, to stave off a second upset.

Villanova led, 60-57, after a triple by Shane Clark with 3:47 to play - but the Irish defense stiffened, and did not permit another Wildcat field goal for the remainder of the contest.  Ryan Ayers responded with a triple, and with two subsequent free throws, gave Notre Dame the lead for good; Falls scored the final four ND points, one on a basket in transition, and two at the line.

Falls eventually had 23 points, Carter 14 points, and Kurz 10.  Harangody was effectively contained, scoring just four points on 1-6 shooting.

Reynolds had 19 points to lead Villanova, but on just 5-14 shooting (as a team, Villanova shot just 33%).  Sumpter, Nardi, and Cunningham each had 11 points for the Wildcats. 

January 26, 2008 - Wachovia Center - Notre Dame 90, #18 Villanova 80

Notre Dame led 39-29 at halftime, en route to only its second-ever victory at the Wachovia Center, upsetting the #18 Wildcats.  McAlarney detonated for 30 points on 10-15 shooting, Harangody had 25 points and 10 rebounds, Kurz had a dozen points, and Ayers 10 points off the bench.

For Villanova, Antonio Pena led the way with 17 points on 8-9 shooting, plus nine rebounds and three assists.  Reynolds and Corey Fisher scored 13 points apiece, with Corey Stokes adding 11 off the bench.

March 2, 2009 - Joyce Center - #16 Villanova 77, Notre Dame 60

The Wildcats committed only five turnovers in triumphing at South Bend.  Reynolds had 23 points, half a dozen rebounds, and five assists; Cunningham had 18 points and eight rebounds; Clark had 13 points on 5-7 shooting.

For Notre Dame, Ayers had a game-high 25 points on 8-12 shooting, Harangody had 18 points on 8-16 shooting, plus seven rebounds; no other Irish player had more than five points (McAlarney).

Well, I hope you enjoyed this rivalry history.  Another chapter, Wednesday night...

Go Wildcats!



Anonymous said...

If memory serves me correct the Villanova-Notre Dame series ended in 1984, because VU coach Rolllie Massimino was not happy that ND coach Digger Phelps offered to have his team replace Villanova in a scheduled Sunday afternoon national tv game in Chapel Hill when a blizzard the Philadelphia area, almost prevented the Villanova team from getting down to North Carolina to meet the Heels.

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...


Thanks for the comment. Although I lack firsthand knowledge, I think that your theory is very likely to be correct, as the end came very abruptly and never resumed.

Looking at the records:

Villanova did, in fact, play @ Dean Smith's North Carolina in a regular season game on February 13, 1983 - and according to, that was in fact a Sunday. (That was one year before the final battle with Notre Dame, on January 21, 1984.)

In addition, Carolina was also ranked #1 at the time, and had just won the 1982 national championship. The Tar Heels had such luminaries as Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, and Brad Daugherty.

Villanova, however, was ranked #12 nationally.

In Chapel Hill, the Wildcats won in an upset, 56-53. Two years later (and with some of the same players, such as Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain, and Harold Pressley) they would defeat North Carolina in the Elite Eight, en route to the national championship.

Go Wildcats!