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Jan 1, 1998, 1997

Villanova Faces La Salle on Friday

(6-4 Overall, 3-0 Big East)
(3-5 Overall, 0-0 Atlantic 10)
January 2, 1998 ~ 1 p.m. (ET)
Philadelphia, Pa. ~ The CoreStates Spectrum (18,060)

Probable Villanova Starters
No. Pos.    Name                            PPG     RPG
#15 F       Malik Allen (So., 6-10, 240)    11.4    8.6
#22 F       HOWARD BROWN (Jr., 6-5, 200)    12.1    5.6
#31 C       Rafal Bigus (Jr., 7-1, 270)      9.4    5.7
#13 G       John Celestand (Jr., 6-3, 175)  13.7    4.2
#10 G       JERMAINE MEDLEY (Fr., 6-0, 185)  6.6    1.5
Probable La Salle Starters
No. Pos.    Name                            PPG      RPG
#4  F       K'ZELL WESSON (Jr., 6-7, 254)   14.6    12.4
#20 F       MIKE GIZZI (Sr., 6-5, 205)      16.1     4.3
#25 C       VICTOR THOMAS (Fr., 6-7, 183)   11.8     6.6
#12 G       DONNIE CARR (So., 6-3, 212)     19.3     2.3
#44 G       SHAWN SMITH (Sr., 5-9, 154)     11.0     3.5

Last Time Out
Villanova: The Wildcats improved to 3-0 in the Big East Conference with an 83-76 victory over Boston College in Conte Forum on Dec. 30, 1997. Malik Allen posted a career-high 21 points on nine-for-11 shooting, while his frontcourt mate Rafal Bigus added 14 on six-of-eight shooting. Howard Brown contributed 15 points and John Celestand 14 as well to round out the Wildcats' double-figure scoring. Villanova led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but BC battled back and took a one-point lead at halftime and a five-point lead with 16:35 remaining in the game. The Wildcats, however, put together a 9-0 run to take the lead at that point, and hung on for the win. Kostas Maglos led the Eagles with a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds. Villanova shot a season-best 61.8 percent from the field, but was outrebounded 31-27.

La Salle: La Salle dropped two games at the Tribune Classic in Tempe, Ariz., falling to Arizona State, 111-78 and Boston University 77-65. In the consolation game versus the Terriers, Donnie Carr led all scorers with 20 points, while K'zell Wesson added 15 and Mike Gizzi 12 for the Explorers. La Salle shot just 26.2 percent from the field, while BU converted 48.7 percent. The two teams managed to stay even on the boards at 37 apiece.

Villanova-La Salle Series Notes
This series has been a see-saw battle, with La Salle holding a narrow 23-24 edge. The two teams first met on March 6, 1934, with Villanova coming away with a 25-23 victory on its home floor. La Salle won six of seven meetings from 1986-91, and the Wildcats have won two-straight under head coach Steve Lappas. The last three meetings have been held at the CoreStates Spectrum, with the Wildcats earning two victories (90-50 in 1996 and 55-54 in 1994) and La Salle earning a 79-75 win in 1991.

The Coaches
    Villanova   Steve Lappas 
        109-60 (.645) / 6 yrs. (VU)
        165-122 (.575) / 10 yrs.
    La Salle    Speedy Morris
    196-141 (.582) / 12 yrs. (LS)
    196-141 (.582) / 12 yrs.

Next Up
Villanova: Villanova returns to Big East Conference action to take on Boston College for the second time in less than a week on Jan. 6, 1998, at The Pavilion. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. and the game will air on ESPN2.

La Salle: The Explorers will travel to Washington, D.C., for a Jan. 4 match-up with George Washington in their Atlantic 10 opener. The game will tip off at 5 p.m.

Shooting Lights Out
After not reaching the 50-percent shooting plateau in their first seven games of the season, the Wildcats have shot lights out in their past three games, converting 100-of-167 (.599) as a team combined. It marks only the second time in the Steve Lappas era that the Wildcats have posted three-straight 50 percent or better shooting performances. In addition, Villanova's 61.8 percent shooting from the field versus Boston College (34-of-55) is its best effort since the Wildcats set a school record at the famous 1985 NCAA title game versus Georgetown. On April 1, 1985, Villanova shot 22-of-28 (.786) to defeat the Hoyas and sit atop college basketball's throne.

The sharpshooting began last Monday versus Florida International when the Wildcats hit 39-of-65 field goals (.600) to record their best performance from the field in nearly two years. The last time Villanova shot that well was on Jan. 25, 1995, versus Miami when the Wildcats converted 33-of-55 from the field, also for 60 percent. Villanova won that game by 30 points as well, defeating the Hurricanes 92-62 at The Pavilion.

Villanova followed its 60-percent shooting effort versus FIU with a .574 (27-for-47) performance the following game against Hofstra. Included in the Wildcats' performance against Hofstra was six-for-11 (.545) shooting from behind the three-point arc, their best of the season and most efficient since a 12-for-18effort against Rutgers last year.

Shooting Streak
The Wildcats have not shot 50 percent or better from the field in three-straight games since the 1994-95 season when they hit for 60.0 percent versus Louisville (30-50, W 82-81), 57.1 percent versus Marist (32-56, W 80-59) and 60.3 percent versus Seton Hall (35-58, W 98-75) near the front end of the season. The dates of those games start at the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 26, 1994 and run through Dec. 5, 1994.

Records show that the Wildcats strung together four-straight games of 50 percent shooting from the field during the 1987-88 season. Rollie Massimino's club did it versus Illinois (60.7 percent, 34-56, W 78-76), Iowa (50.0 percent, 31-62, L 74-97), Penn (58.6 percent, 34-58, W 84-55) and California (50.0 percent, 20-40, W 65-50). The dates of those contests start at the Maui Invitational on Nov. 28, 1987 and run through Dec. 6, 1987.

Scoring Spree
In addition to excellent shooting, Villanova has been scoring in bunches over the last three games. The team from the Main Line is averaging 90.7 points per game over the trio of games, 18.9 points higher than its season average of 71.8 ppg. Villanova's 103 points versus Florida International was its most since March 17, 1994, when the Wildcats defeated Canisius 103-79, and it marked the 49th time in school history that Villanova posted 100 or more points in a single game.

Wildcat post players Rafal Bigus and Malik Allen were impressive in victories over Florida International, Hofstra and Boston College, as the duo combined for 101 points and 41 rebounds in the trio of games on 40-of-55 (.694) shooting. Bigus registered a career-high 19 points versus FIU, followed by 17 against Hofstra, and 14 versus Boston College on 19-of-25 shooting (.760). Allen, meanwhile, scored 14, 16, and a career-high 21 points consecutively on 21-of-30 (.700) shooting against the three opponents. Additionally, the duo's combined 19 field goal attempts against BC is the most for the pair in a single game all season, while their 15 made field goals versus the Eagles is also a superlative this year for the combined effort of the big men.

More on Malik
At this stage of the season, Malik Allen is opening eyes as one of the most improved players in the Big East Conference. The sophomore forward is averaging 11.4 points per contest and 8.6 rebounds per game, up considerably from 2.0 ppg and 2.9 rpg as a freshman a year ago. He's ranked sixth in the Big East in rebounding. The Shawnee High School product has registered six double-figure scoring outings, two double-figure rebounding outings and reset his career high twice already this season. Allen broke his previous high of 17 points versus Duke against Boston College on Tuesday, hitting for 21 points on nine-of-11 shooting (career bests in scoring, shooting, and field goals made and attempted). Allen scored nine points in the final six minutes of the contest and 17 in the second half to lead his team from behind.

Four in a Row
Villanova's current four-game winning streak, dating back to a 68-57 victory over No. 16-ranked Temple on Dec. 16, 1997, rates as Villanova's longest since early last season. The Wildcats strung together five-straight from Dec. 21, 1996 to Jan. 2, 1997, defeating Mt. St. Mary's, St. Joseph's, Rider, UNC-Wilmington and Seton Hall.

Sharpshooting Big Man
Rafal Bigus currently rates as the Wildcats' best shooter from the field, converting a team-high 64.9 percent from the floor (37-for-57). In addition, the Stargard, Poland, native, is also Villanova's second-best free throw shooter, as he has hit 20-of-26 from the line for a percentage of 76.9 on the year.

Keeping the TOs Down
Villanova's 12 turnovers versus Boston College marked a season low for the Wildcats in the category, tying its previous low of 12 versus Seton Hall on Dec. 6. The game also marked the third time this season that Villanova has compiled more assists than turnovers. Guards John Celestand and Jermaine Medley had their best combined outing in the category of turnovers, as the starting duo gave the ball up only twice all game.

Villanova in the Big Five
Throughout the years, Villanova has played 216 games against Philadelphia Big Five teams. The Wildcats' record is 120-96 (.556) combined against Temple (34-36), Pennsylvania (29-15), St. Joseph's (34-21) and La Salle (23-24).

Wildcats at the Spectrum
Villanova will be making its only appearance at the CoreStates Spectrum versus La Salle during the 1997-98 season. It marks the first time since the 1981-82 season that Villanova has not had a home game at the arena (La Salle is host for today's match-up). Over the years, Villanova is 27-23 (.540) in the CoreStates Spectrum, including a 9-3 ledger over the last four years.

Big Five Games in the Spectrum
Villanova is 6-5 against Philadelphia Big Five opponents in the CoreStates Spectrum. The Wildcats are 2-1 versus La Salle (L 79-75, 12/9/91; W 55-54, 2/28/94; and W 90-50, 2/12/96); 0-1 versus Pennsylvania (59-71, 12/15/92); 3-1 versus St. Joseph's (W 70-62, 2/22/83; W 47-44, 2/19/85; W 83-82, 12/8/90; L 66-77, 2/6/93); 1-2 versus Temple (W 66-58, 2/1/92; L 49-54, 12/11/93; L 56-62, 12/13/95).

Home, Sweet, Home
The Wildcats have recorded 36-straight sellouts in their on-campus arena, The Pavilion, and boast a record of 95-35 (.730) in the building since it opened in 1986. From the 1994-95 season on, Villanova is 33-3 (.917) in The Pavilion, including an 18-2 (.900) mark in Big East Conference match-ups.

Villanova Versus the Atlantic 10
The Wildcats have played every member of the 12-school Atlantic 10, posting a record of 194-148 (.567) combined against the league throughout history. Villanova is 34-36 versus Temple, 3-4 versus Dayton, 25-25 versus Duquesne, 10-8 versus Fordham, 10-6 against George Washington, 23-24 against La Salle, 11-1 against Massachusetts, 4-2 versus Rhode Island, 21-18 against St. Bonaventure, 34-21 versus St. Joseph's, 3-0 against Virginia Tech, and 16-3 against Xavier. In the Steve Lappas era, Villanova is 5-4 against the league.

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 47-18 (.723) 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 3-4 in 1997-98.

When the Wildcats Shoot ...
After 10 games, Villanova has converted 45.3 percent from the field (265-585). In all six of their victories this season, the Wildcats hit for better than 40 percent from the floor (44.4 versus Georgetown; 46.4 versus Seton Hall; 42.0 versus Temple; 60.0 versus FIU; 57.4 against Hofstra; and 61.8 versus BC). In contrast, each of their four losses had the Wildcats shooting below the 40-percent mark (38.2 versus Minnesota; 37.3 versus Bradley; 36.6 versus Duke; and 33.3 versus New Orleans).

At Home and on the Road in the Big East
Over the last four years (1994-present), Villanova has recorded a mark of 24-4 (.857) at home in Big East Conference regular-season contests. In Big East games in The Pavilion during that time, the Wildcats are 18-2 (.900). During the Steve Lappas era at Villanova, the Wildcats are 30-16 (.652) at home in league play, including a stellar 23-11 (.676) in The Pavilion.

The Villanova Wildcats have recorded a mark of 26-21 (.553) on the road in Big East Conference match-ups under Lappas, including a stellar record of 24-14 (.632) over the last four years, and a 2-0 mark this season wins at Georgetown and BC.

Big East 
Season  Record  Road    Home
1997-98 3-0     2-0     1-0     (1-0 Pavilion / 0-0 Phila.)
1996-97 12-6    5-4     7-2     (4-1 Pavilion / 3-1 Phila.)
1995-96 14-4    6-3     8-1     (7-0 Pavilion / 1-1 Phila.)
1994-95 14-4    6-3     8-1     (6-1 Pavilion / 2-0 Phila.)
1993-94 10-8    5-4     5-4     (4-3 Pavilion / 1-1 Phila.)
1992-93 3-15    2-7     1-8     (1-6 Pavilion / 0-2 Phila.)
Totals  56-37   26-21   30-16   (23-11 Pavilion / 7-5 Phila.)

Experimenting with the Lineup
Villanova head coach Steve Lappas has utilized three different starting lineups 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  6-2

Lynch Impresses
After an early season plagued with injuries (strained achilles and sprained ankle), Brian Lynch has come on strong of late. The sophomore guard posted back-to-back 12-point efforts, a single-game career-high in scoring, and shot nine-of-14 (.643) combined versus Florida International and Hofstra. Lynch's four-of-five (.800) shooting performance versus Hofstra is the best effort ever of his young career.

Comparing the Stats
So far this season, Villanova's offensive output has differed greatly depending on where the game has been played. In five home contests (4-1 record), the Wildcats have shot a combined 136-of-287 from the field (.474) and averaged 78.6 points per game. In contrast, in five road games (2-3 record), Villanova is shooting 129-for-298 from the floor (.433) and averaging only 65.7 points per game. It is important to note, however, that the Wildcats broke that trend at Boston College on Tuesday night, hitting a season-high 61.8 percent and winning 83-76 over the Eagles.

Celestand Lights It Up
In the best shooting performance of his career, John Celestand hit eight-of-11 (.727) from the field to lead the team with 20 points against Florida International, including 15 in the second half. The junior also was a perfect four-for-four from behind the three-point stripe, the best shooting performance from three since Jonathan Haynes did it on Dec. 5, 1994 in a 98-75 win over Seton Hall. Haynes also converted four-of-four from the field. In one of his most complete games as well, the Piscataway, N.J., native, had five rebounds, six assists, three steals and only two turnovers in 30 minutes of play.

Starting from Scratch
The Wildcats were virtually starting from scratch prior to the start of the 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.

Wildcats on the Tube
During the Lappas tenure on the Main Line, Villanova has made 53 appearances on five national television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, ABC, and NBC). The Wildcats have recorded a mark of 31-22 (.584) in those games, including an 11-14 record on ESPN. Villanova is 8-1 on ESPN2, 9-7 on CBS, 1-0 on ABC, and 2-0 on NBC during the six years Lappas has served as Villanova head coach.

Lappas Versus Ranked Opponents
Under head coach Steve Lappas, the Wildcats have recorded a mark of 17-16 (.515) against nationally-ranked teams, including a record of 13-9 (.590) over the past four years. This season, the Wildcats have split against nationally-ranked squads, defeating No. 16 Temple (68-57) on Dec. 16, 1997, and falling to No. 1Duke on Dec. 10 (L 94-66).

1997-98 Big East 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:

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.

Frosh Starters Under Lappas
Kerry Kittles, 17 games ('92-93)
Eric Eberz, 1 game      ('92-93)
Jason Lawson, 32 games  ('93-94)
Howard Brown, 5 games   ('95-96)
Rafal Bigus, 1 games    ('95-96)
Tim Thomas, 31 games    ('96-97)

Stepping Up
Junior Howard Brown has established himself as the most consistent player for the Wildcats this season, stepping up his play in his third year on the Main Line. Brown has posted double figures in seven games this season and is averaging 12.1 ppg, the second-highest number on the team. He's shot better than 50 percent from the field six times, and 40 percent or better from behind the arc six times. He's led the team in scoring three times and assists and blocks three times, and rates as the best shooting wing on the Wildcat squad with a percentage of .529 (45-for-85). He's ranked fourth in the Big East in three-point shooting. Seven of his top 10 career shooting performances have come this season. Additionally, the Pottstown, Pa., native, boasts the best three-point shooting percentage (.447) on the squad, as well as the most made three-pointers with 17. Brown's excellent shooting this season is markedly improved from his previous two seasons (35.8 in 1996, 39.2 in 1997).

Brown's Best Career Shooting Performances*
1.  77.8    7-for-9     20 points   Fla. Int'l (12/27/97)
2.  66.7    4-for-6      8 points   Miami (1/27/96)
3.  63.6    7-for-11    16 points   Seton Hall (12/6/97)
4.  62.5    5-for-8     14 points   Bradley (11/29/97)
    62.5    5-for-8     10 points   UNC-Wilm. (12/30/96)
6.  60.0    6-for-10    15 points   BC (12/30/97)
    60.0    6-for-10    18 points   St. Joseph's (12/23/96)
8.  55.6    5-for-9     11 points   Georgetown (12/3/97)
    55.6    5-for-9     13 points   Connecticut (2/23/97)
10.  54.5   6-for-11    19 points   Temple (12/16/97)
*minimum four made field goals; italics indicate 1997-98 season 

Holley to Redshirt
Freshman Johnny Holley, a 6-foot-6 forward from McKinney, Texas, will redshirt the 1997-98 season due to an inflammatory condition in his right knee. Holley played in only one game this season, seeing limited action against Bradley.

75 is the Magic Number
Over the past six seasons under head coach Steve Lappas, the Wildcats are 74-12 (.860) 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. Villanova is 3-0 in 1997-98 when they score 75 or better.

    Villanova-La Salle Comparison
(10 game VU totals; Eight game LS totals)
VU                              LS
718         Points Scored       838
71.8        Avg. PPG            69.8    
265-585     FG-FGA              307-684
.453        FG Pct.             .449    
64-201      3FG-3FGA            67-199
.318        3-Pt. Pct.          .337
124-178     Free Throws         157-248
.697        FT Pct.             .633
705         Points Allowed      799
70.5        Avg. Allowed        66.6
378         Total Rebounds      446
37.8        Avg. RPG            37.2
-0.2        Rebound Margin      -1.3
166         Assists             162
16.6        Avg. APG            13.5
179         Turnovers           190
17.9        Avg. TO Per Game    15.8
68          Steals              102
6.8         Avg. SPG            8.5
Series Facts
Overall Series Record   LS 23-24
Record in Overtime Games    0-3
Series First Meeting    VU 25-23 @VU
    March 6, 1934
Current Win Streak  VU, 2

The Last Meeting
Villanova 90, La Salle 50
Feb. 12, 1996 ~ The CoreStates Spectrum
Philadelphia, Pa.
LA SALLE            MN  FG-A    FT-A    R   A   PF  PT
Romaine Haywood     31  5-24    2-4     8   2   4   14
Brian Flickinger    29  3-10    1-4     3   0   4   10
Everett Catlin      31  3-8     1-2     5   1   3   7
Mike Gizzi          30  3-7     0-0     5   0   3   7
Shawn Smith         34  0-7     2-2     3   4   2   2   
Olof Landgren       11  0-1     0-0     0   0   2   0
J. van Teeseling    9   1-3     0-0     4   0   2   2
Mike Melchionni     11  1-5     0-0     1   0   1   3
Steve Fromal        8   0-0     0-0     1   1   0   0
Matt Comey          3   2-3     0-0     1   0   0   5
Chris Copeland      3   0-3     0-0     0   0   1   0
TOTALS              200 18-71   6-12    37  8   22  50  
Three-point Goals:  8-29 (Haywood 2-11; Flickinger 3-9; Gizzi 1-2; 
            Comey 1-1; Smiht, Landgren 0-1; Melchionni 1-4); 
Team Rebounds:  6; 
Blocked Shots:  1 (Haywood); 
Turnovers:  15 (Catlin, Smith 3; Flickinge, Team 2; 
        Haywood, Melchionni, Fromal 1); 
Steals:  8 (Melchionni 3; Gizzi 2; Catlin, Landgren, Comey 1).
VILLANOVA       MN  FG-A     FT-A   R   A   PF  PT
Eric Eberz      25  4-8       0-0   2   0   0   11
Chuck Kornegay  19  3-8       3-7   6   0   3   7
Jason Lawson    24  2-4       5-7   3   2   0   11
Alvin Williams  25  1-4       0-0   2   10  1   2
Kerry Kittles   33  8-14      4-6   12  6   0   25
Zeffy Penn      18  3-6       0-0   7   1   1   6
John Celestand  16  1-5       0-0   3   5   2   2   
Howard Brown    14  2-3       2-2   1   1   4   6   
Rafal Bigus     11  2-3       3-5   5   2   2   7
Jaime Gregg     8   4-5       0-0   6   0   2   8
Kevin Cox       5   1-1       2-3   1   0   0   5
Brian Noone     2   0-1       0-0   0   0   0   0
TOTALS          200 31-62   19-30   54  27  15  90
Three-point Goals:  9-17 (Kittles 5-6; Eberz 3-7; Cox 1-1; 
Celestand, Brown, Noone 0-1); 
Team Rebounds:  6; 
Blocked Shots:  9 (Bigus 3; Lawson 2; Kornegay, 
Williams, Kittles, Gregg 1); 
Turnovers:  12 (Williams, Kittles, Bigus, Gregg 2; 
Kornegay, Lawson, Brown, Cox 1); 
Steals:  8 (Kittles 5; Penn, Brown, Cox 1): Halftime Score:  46-16 VU; 
Attendance:  9,911.