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Dec. 4, 1997

Villanova Makes Home Debut Against Seton Hall

Allen Comes Through
Sophomore power forward Malik Allen played the game of his young career versus Georgetown on Wednesday. The Shawnee High School product scored a personal-best 16 points, including a perfect eight-for-eight from the charity stripe, career-highs for free throws made, attempted, and percentage. He also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and matched his career-high for blocked shots in a game with three. The six-foot-10 Allen also converted four key foul shots in the final 1:06 of the game, and had two big rebounds as well. His first two free throws put the Wildcats up by three, 70-67, while his last two with 22 seconds remaining in the game put Villanova up by four, 73-69, to secure the victory.

Balanced Attack
Villanova posted five double-figure scorers against Georgetown, with Malik Allen scoring 16, John Celestand 15, Howard Brown 11, and Zeffy Penn and Rafal Bigus 10 each. Since Steve Lappas took over the Wildcat progam prior to the 1992-93 season, Villanova has accomplished that feat 21 times, but only eight times (including the latest Georgetown game) in Big East Conference match-ups. During the Lappas era at Villanova, the Wildcats have posted six double-figure scorers in one game only once, in a 94-62 win over American during the 1993-94 season.

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.

Rookie at the Point
Wildcat freshman Jermaine Medley made his first career start against Bradley, 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.

Experimenting with the Lineup
Villanova head coach Steve Lappas has utilized a different starting lineup in each of the Wildcats' three games this season. The constants have been Malik Allen, Rafal Bigus, and John Celestand, while Jermaine Medley has been inserted at the point guard position and Howard Brown replaced Zeffy Penn versus Georgetown. Following are each of Villanova's lineups this season, and the result:

Lineup Record
(F) Allen, (F) Penn, (C) Bigus, (G) Lynch, (G) Celestand : 0-1
(F) Allen, (F) Penn, (C) Bigus, (G) Celestand, (G) Medley: 0-1
(F) Allen, (F) Brown, (C) Bigus, (G) Celestand, (G) Medley:1-0

At Home and on the Road in the Big East
In Big East Conference match-ups at home, Villanova has posted a record of 29-16 (.645) during the Steve Lapps era (1992-97), including a stellar 22-11(.667) mark in The Pavilion. Over the last three years, Villanova has lost only four times on its home court to go against 23 victories (.852). In Big East Conference games in The Pavilion during that time, the Wildcats are 17-2 (.895).

The Villanova Wildcats have recorded a mark of 25-21 (.543) on the road in Big East Conference match-ups under Lappas, including a stellar record of 23-14 (.622) over the last four years, and a 1-0 mark this season after a 73-69 win at Georgetown.

Home, Sweet, Home
Villanova makes its home debut on Saturday versus the Seton Hall Pirates in The Pavilion. The Wildcats have recorded 31-straight sellouts in their on-campus arena and boast a record of 91-34 (.728) in the building since it opened in 1986. Over the last three years, Villanova is 29-2 (.935) in The Pavilion.

Villanova and the Home Opener
Villanova has dominated its home opener over the years, recording a mark of 71-6 (.922), including 29-straight victories. The Wildcats have had a multitude of home arenas over the years, but have fared the best in their current on-campus facility, The Pavilion, where they are undefeated at 11-0 in home openers. Villanova was 12-3 (.800) in The Palestra, 10-2 in Alumni Hall, and 38-1 in the Field House (also called the 'Cat House) in its 77-year history. Villanova has only played one other Big East Conference opponent in its home debut, defeating Providence last season 75-64 in The Pavilion. The Wildcats have played Seton Hall on three other occasions in their home opener, defeating the Pirates three times (31-22 in 1934-35; 37-28 in 1935-36; and 23-21 in 1936-37). Villanova's losses in home openers are as follows: 28-17 to West Catholic in 1928-29; 31-29 to George Washington in 1930-31; 66-62 to Canisius in 1956-57; 63-62 to Buffalo in 1960-61; 68-53 to Princeton in 1962-63; and 82-65 to USC in 1967-68.

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 No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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).

Impressive Debut
Wildcat freshman Marvin O'Connor has been one of the bright spots in Villanova's season thus far, coming off the bench to post double figures in two of the first three games. 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, followed by a 19-minute effort against Georgetown.

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.

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.

From the Training Room
Villanova sophomore Brian Lynch missed both the Bradley and Georgetown contests due to a strained right achilles, but is probable for the Seton Hall game, as he practiced on both Thursday and Friday. 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. Junior Rafal Bigus is battling a painful hip pointer that he suffered on Tuesday, but he has managed to play through the pain. Additionally, walk-on Brian Noone will not dress for the second-consecutive game versus Georgetown due to a fractured left index finger.

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

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.

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:

Villanova and the Big East Opener
The Wildcats opened the Big East Conference season with a victory, defeating Georgetown 73-69 on Wednesday night in the MCI Center. Villanova began play in the Big East Conference in the 1980-81 season, and during the 16-year period has recorded a mark of 14-4 in Big East openers. The Wildcats have never lost a Big East opener under head coach Steve Lappas. Villanova's history in conference openers follows:

1997-98 Villanova 73, Georgetown 69
1996-97 Villanova 75, Providence 64
1995-96 Villanova 83, St. John's 68
1994-95 Villanova 98, Seton Hall 75
1993-94 Villanova 76, Georgetown 75 ot
1992-93 Villanova 79, Syracuse 61
1991-92 St. John's 79, Villanova 69
1990-91 Seton Hall 81, Villanova 69
1989-90 Villanova 64, Connecticut 57
1988-89 Connecticut 57, Villanova 55
1987-88 Villanova 63, Connecticut 61
1986-87 Villanova 66, Connecticut 51
1985-86 Villanova 62, Seton Hall 56
1984-85 Villanova 82, Syracuse 70
1983-84 Syracuse 79, Villanova 70
1982-83 Villanova 87, Seton Hall 68
1981-82 Villanova 97, Boston College 75
1980-81 Villanova 68, Providence 49

Game Information

Television      Comcast SportsNet
Talent          Dave Sims
                Jim Spanarkal
Radio           WPHT-FM (1210 am)
Talent          Andy Musser
                Whitey Rigsby
Series Info     VU leads, 51-32
Last meeting    VU 88-67, 1/2/97 @VU
VU Coach        Steve Lappas 
                104-58 (.642) / 6 yrs. (VU)
                160-120 (.571) / 10 yrs.
SHU Coach       Tommy Amaker
                3-2 (.600) / 1 yr. (SHU)
                3-2 (.600) / 1 yr.

Probable Villanova Starters

No. Pos. Name PPG RPG #15 F Malik Allen (So., 6-10, 240) 10.3 8.0 #22 F Howard Brown (Jr., 6-5, 200) 8.3 4.0 #31 C Rafal Bigus (Jr., 7-1, 270) 7.7 5.0 #13 G John Celestand (Jr., 6-3, 175) 9.7 5.3 #10 G Jermaine Medley (Fr., 6-0, 185) 3.0 2.0

Probable Seton Hall Starters

No. Pos. Name PPG RPG #4 F Duane Jordan (Jr., 6-6, 218) 4.6 6.6 #41 F Donnell Williams (Sr., 6-7, 221) 14.0 4.6 #52 C Jacky Kaba (Sr., 6-10, 243) 7.2 11.6 #10 G S. Holloway (So., 5-10, 175) 20.0 3.2 #20 G Levell Sanders (Sr., 6-2, 191) 23.0 7.5 or #21 G RIMAS KAUKENAS (So., 6-4, 85) 8.2 2.6