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Dec. 2, 1997

Wildcats vs. Georgetown Hoyas

Villanova Wildcats
(0-2 Overall, 0-0 Big East)

vs.

Georgetown Hoyas
(3-1 Overall, 0-0 Big East)

December 3, 1997 ~ 7:00 p.m. (ET)
WASHINGTON, D.C.
MCI CENTER

Game Information

Television Comcast SportsNet
Talent Dave Sims
Jim Spanarkal
Radio WPHT-FM (1210 am)
Talent Andy Musser
Whitey Rigsby
Series Info GU leads, 31-18
Last meeting GU 78-67, 1/27/97 @GU
VU Coach Steve Lappas
  103-58 (.639) / 6 yrs. (VU)
  159-120 (.569) / 10 yrs.

 

Probable Villanova Starters

No. Pos. Name PPG RPG
#15 F Malik Allen (So., 6-10, 240) 7.5 8.0
#33 F Zeffy Penn (Sr., 6-6, 195) 6.5 7.0
#31 C Rafal Bigus (Jr., 7-1, 270) 6.5 5.0
#13 G John Celestand (Jr., 6-3, 175) 7.0 4.5
#10 G JERMAINE MEDLEY (Fr., 6-0, 185) 2.0 2.5

Wildcat Notes

Impressive Debut
Wildcat freshman Marvin O'Connor has been one of the bright spots in Villanova's early season games, coming off the bench to post double figures in each game. He registered an impressive collegiate debut against Minnesota, playing 14 minutes and scoring 10 points on five-for-11 shooting. The Simon Gratz graduate was one of three double-figure scorers for the Wildcats in the game. Additionally, O'Connor's double-digit effort marked the 15th time since 1973-74 when freshmen became eligible that a first-year player posted 10 or more. Then, he came out against Bradley to play 26 minutes and score 11 points. He currently leads Villanova in scoring with 10.5 ppg after two contests.

Big Game for Brown
Junior Howard Brown put in an excellent effort on Saturday versus Bradley, coming off the bench to lead the Wildcats in scoring with 14 points in 26 minutes of play. His 14 points marked his best scoring performance since the St. Joseph's game on Dec. 23, 1996, when he posted a career-high 18. In addition, Brown converted five-of-eight (.625) from the field, his best shooting performance from the field since he went four-of-six (.667) against Miami on January 19, 1996 and had eight points. The Pottstown, Pa., native also hit a career-high four-of-five (.800) from behind the three point arc, personal bests in both treys made and percentage.

Tough Schedule
The young Wildcats have an extremely difficult early schedule, going on the road for three-straight road games to open the season and four of their first five: at Minnesota (neutral court, but in Minneapolis), at Bradley, and at Georgetown to open the Hoyas' new MCI Center in Washington. Villanova's first home game is on Dec. 6 when Big East rival Seton Hall comes to the Pavilion, but the Wildcats get thrown back into the fray on Dec. 10 when they head to Durham, N.C., to take on the highly-rated Duke Blue Devils.

Lappas Hits the Century Mark
Steve Lappas earned his 100th victory at Villanova on the same afternoon that the Wildcats won the 1997 Big East regular-season championship, in an 84-74 win over Rutgers on March 1, 1997. He became only the fourth coach in Wildcat history to reach 100 wins, and is keeping company with a trio of Villanova legends.

Villanova Coaching Legends
                                      Record after
                                  VU Record    100 VU wins
Alexander Severance, 1936-61  413-201 (.673)  100-31, 1936-42
Jack Kraft,          1961-73  238-95  (.725)  100-36, 1961-66
Rollie Massimino,    1973-92  357-241 (.597)  100-81, 1973-80
Steve Lappas,        1992-    103-58  (.639)  100-54, 1992-97 

Starting from Scratch
The Wildcats are virtually starting from scratch this season, with only one starter returning to the 1997-98 lineup, as Chuck Kornegay, Jason Lawson, Tim Thomas, and Alvin Williams have all departed. Combined, the quartet amassed 4,244 career points and 2,142 career rebounds during their varied tenures at Villanova. In addition, the Wildcat seniors from a year ago (Kornegay, Lawson, Williams) compiled 95 victories during their four-year stint, the most wins by a class in school history. The class of '97 surpassed the class of '85, which posted a record of 92-38 and won the NCAA title.

John Celestand is back as a starter at guard, and is Villanova's leading returning scorer as well with an average of 8.3 ppg from a year ago. Only 30.2 percent of the Wildcats' scoring from a year ago returns, as well as only 30.4 percent of their rebounding. Howard Brown and Malik Allen are the team's leading returning rebounders with an average of 2.9 rpg each from last season.

Villanova and the NBA
Last season, three Villanova players were taken in the NBA Draft's two rounds, the highest number from any school in the nation. Tim Thomas was selected with the No. 7 pick by the New Jersey Nets, and was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, while Jason Lawson was chosen with the No. 46 selection by the Denver Nuggets. He, too, was traded later in the evening to the Orlando Magic. Alvin Williams went to the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 48 pick.

In addition, over the last two years, Villanova has had four players selected in the Draft, with Kerry Kittles chosen by New Jersey with the No. 8 pick. Those four players selected in two years rates as the nation's second-highest number (Kentucky with six is first).

From the Training Room
Villanova sophomore Brian Lynch missed the Bradley contest due to a strained right achilles, and is doubtful for the Georgetown game as well. Lynch injured the foot in practice the week prior to the Wildcats' game with the Braves. This marks the second time in his career he has been missing from the lineup due to injury, as he sprained his thumb a season ago and did not play in three games. Additionally, walk-on Brian Noone will not dress for the second-consecutive game versus Georgetown due to a fractured left index finger.

Flashback
Junior John Celestand played the game of his career versus Georgetown during his freshman season on Feb. 5, 1996, in the CoreStates Spectrum. Celestand posted a career-high 19 points on seven-for-10 shooting from the field, including two-for-four shooting from behind the three-point arc. Celestand also had five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in his stellar 21 minutes of play. Villanova won, 79-66.

On the Road
The Villanova Wildcats have recorded a mark of 24-21 (.533) on the road in Big East Conference match-ups in the Steve Lappas era (1992-97), including a stellar record of 22-14 (.611) over the last four years. Georgetown, however, has proven to be a difficult trip for the Wildcats, as Villanova has won only once on the Hoyas' home court with Lappas at the helm (76-75 on Dec. 4, 1993 in overtime at USAir Arena). Villanova's road record at Georgetown under Lappas is 1-4.

Rookie at the Point
Wildcat freshman Jermaine Medley made his first career start against Bradley on Saturday, becoming the first true freshman to run the point for Villanova since the 1985-86 season when Kenny Wilson ran the show. Wilson went on to become a four-year starter for head coach Rollie Massimino, setting the Wildcat career assist mark with 627 from 1985-89. That year, Villanova started an all-freshman backcourt with Wilson at point guard and Doug West at the two guard position. Both players started each of their four years at Villanova.

Wildcats Drop Season Opener
For only the seventh time in its 78-year history, Villanova lost its season-opening game in a 68-55 defeat at the hands of Minnesota. The last time Villanova lost its season opener was during the 1991-92 season when the Wildcats were defeated 79-49 by Houston. The defeat also marked the first time in the Steve Lappas era that the Wildcats lost their debut, as the coach has recorded a mark of 5-1 in season openers since his arrival on the Main Line.

Starting Slow
Villanova's slow 0-2 start this season is a first for head coach Steve Lappas, and has happened only rarely throughout history. Villanova has started the season 0-2 only three other times: 1991-92 (lost to Houston 49-79 and Georgia Tech 59-80); 1931-32 (lost to Seventh Regiment 25-27 and Manhattan 11-28); and 1928-29 (lost to St. Bonaventure 17-28 and Baltimore 28-32). Villanova has been 0-3 only twice in hsitory, in 1991-92, falling to LaSalle 79-75 after the Houston and Tech defeats in Rollie Massimino's final campaign on the Main Line. The 1931-32 season also marked an 0-3 start for the Wildcats, with George Jacobs' squad falling to New York AC 25-24 in the third game of the year.

1997-98 Big East Conference Predictions
Syracuse and Connecticut are the choices of the Big East Conference head coaches to win the 1997-98 division titles. Syracuse is picked to win the Big East 7 Division, receiving 10 first-place votes and 81 points. Connecticut garnered nine first-place votes and 69 points to earn the Big East 6 champion, narrowly edging St. John's with 63 points and four first-place votes. Following is the results of the tally:

New Faces
Each of the past two seasons, Steve Lappas has lost his top assistant to another school. In 1996, John Leonard departed from the Main Line to accept the head coaching position at Manhattan College, his alma mater. This spring, Paul Hewitt took over the reigns of the program at Siena College. With the vacancy on the staff this year, Lappas hired Joe Jones away from Hofstra University. In addition, Peter Zaharis was promoted to assistant coach from his administrative assistant position when Jimmy Salmon departed. The constant through all these changes has been assistant Steve Pinone, a 1987 Villanova graduate and member of the 1985 NCAA Champion squad. Pinone has been with Lappas since 1991, joining him while he was at Manhattan College.

Turning it Around
Villanova head coach Steve Lappas has made winning the norm on the Main Line during the last four years, as the Wildcats compiled 95 wins during that time and won the NIT Championship, the Big East Tournament title, the Big East regular-season crown, set a school record for wins in a single season, and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament each of the last three seasons. Prior to his arrival on campus, Villanova had not recorded a 20-win season since the 1987-88 campaign when Rollie Massimino's squad finished 24-13 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Final Eight.

The Last Four Years Under Lappas
  • 1993-94 20-12 overall
  • 1994-95 25-8 overall
  • 1995-96 26-7 overall
  • 1996-97 24-10 overall

No Longer a Sixth Man
Senior captain Zeffy Penn returns for his final year in a Wildcat uniform after sitting out last season as a redshirt. As a junior in 1995-96, Penn played in every game and averaged 4.7 ppg and 3.1 rpg, primarily as a sixth man. Against Georgetown, he will be starting only the fourth game of his career. His prior starts came on Dec. 2, 1995, versus St. John's when he filled in for Chuck Kornegay, and in this season versus Minnesota and Bradley. Penn paced the Wildcats with 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in Villanova's opener versus the Gophers. Both numbers rate as personal bests in those categories during his career.

Throughout his career, Penn has become a favorite of the crowd and student body. He is currently student-teaching at Furness High School in Philadelphia, and has already graduated from Villanova with a degree in Secondary Education. In addition, Penn is studying to become a Eucharistic Minister and serves as a mentor for freshman student-athletes at Villanova.

75 is the Magic Number
Over the past five seasons under head coach Steve Lappas, the Wildcats are 72-12 (.857) in games where they have scored 75 points or better. In 1996-97, the Wildcats were 15-3 when hitting a score of 75. Last year, Villanova was 16-1 when producing 75+ points. During the 1994-95 season, they tallied a 19-1 record in such games, while they were 13-4 in 1993-94 and 8-3 in 1992-93.

Wildcats on the Tube
During the Lappas tenure on the Main Line, Villanova has made 50 appearances on five national television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ABC, and NBC). The Wildcats have recorded a mark of 30-21 (.588) in those games, including an 11-13 record on ESPN. Villanova is 7-1 on ESPN2, 9-7 on CBS, 1-0 on ABC, and 2-0 on NBC during the five years Lappas has served as Villanova head coach.

Lappas and Non-Conference Opponents
Currently in his sixth season at the helm of the Wildcat program, head coach Steve Lappas has posted a mark of 44-16 (.733) versus non-conference opponents during his tenure. In his first year on the Main Line, the Wildcats were 5-3; in 1993-94 Villanova recorded a mark of 10-3 in non-Big East games. In 1994-95, the Wildcats registered a mark of 8-3, and in 1995-96 they were 11-2 out of conference. Last season, Lappas posted a mark of 10-3 in non-league contests, while Villanova is 0-2 in 1997-98.

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