Jan. 5, 2005
By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Villanova coach Jay Wright makes no apologies for padding his team's non-conference schedule with lightweights. Turned out, the first ranked opponent the Wildcats played was the easiest win so far.
"It kind of gives them a feeling of what we can be," Wright said. "I don't think they're shocked, but I think they're feeling real good about it."
"This was a big step for our team," Nardi said. "We're really trying to build something here."
Villanova (8-1) took some knocks for winning games over teams like Albany, Fordham and Monmouth - all without leaving the Philadelphia area - but dominated in the Big East opener against West Virginia.
Villanova broke the game open with nifty passing and stifling defense during a 14-0 run late in the first half, including the final eight points scored by Sumpter. Ray and Nardi opened the run with consecutive 3-pointers.
The Wildcats shot 42 percent from 3-point range and 54 percent from the floor overall.
"When you make shots like that, you can beat a lot of people," Wright said.
D'or Fisher scored 14 points and Tyrone Sally added 10 for the Mountaineers, who hadn't scored less than 70 points this season.
West Virginia looked little like a team averaging 76.9 points and shooting 50 percent from the floor this season. The Mountaineers scored only 18 points and shot 21 percent in the first half.
West Virginia also averaged only 9.6 turnovers a game, but had 10 in the first half, including three on its first three possessions.
The Wildcats mixed up their defense quite a bit in the first half, seemingly switching from man to zone on alternate possessions. The 46 points were the fewest ever allowed by Villanova in a conference game, breaking the mark of 48 allowed against Pittsburgh in 1983.
"Our pressure really bothered them," Ray said. "They couldn't do any up-and-down running."
Wins over then-No. 17 North Carolina State and No. 20 George Washington propelled West Virginia into its first appearance in The Associated Press' Top 25 since March 1998, which was the last year the Mountaineers reached the NCAA tournament.
"We're certainly not a juggernaut of a 10-0 team and we proved that today," coach John Beilein said.
The Mountaineers lost point guard J.D. Collins to an ankle injury with 7:25 left in the first half and trailing by nine. West Virginia looked lost once he left, never able to do much of anything offensively.
The Mountaineers were off to their best start since winning their first 10 games of the 1959-60 season when Jerry West played for them. The 1957-58 team started 14-0.
Villanova had plenty of skeptics with a soft schedule. It played six games at home and two others at the nearby Palestra. Bigger tests await the Wildcats this month, including games at Notre Dame and Providence and their final non-conference against No. 2 Kansas in Philadelphia.
Villanova's last win against a ranked team came against No. 20 Providence in last year's Big East tournament.
Villanova vs. West Virginia Game Notes
Largest Villanova margin of victory in a Big East game (38)
Previous largest margin of victory was 33 (88-55 vs. Pittsburgh on 2/3/96)
Ties the largest margin of victory in any Villanova Big East game (38)
Previous 38-point margin came in a 106-68 loss at Georgetown on 3/2/96
Sets a record for the fewest points allowed by Villanova in a win in Big East play
Villanova had previously allowed 48 points in a 66-48 win at Pittsburgh on 1/12/83
Ties a record for fewest points allowed by Villanova in any Big East game
The Wildcats had twice allowed 46 points in losses in conference play
46-40 loss at Connecticut on 2/6/02
46-41 loss vs. Georgetown on 3/12/03
Villanova's last win by at least 38 points came against Howard (87-49) in 1998-99
Villanova's last win by a larger margin was 87-38 over UNC-Wilmington in 1996-97
Today's game marked the fourth time in nine games this season that Villanova has held the opposition to fewer than 50 points
The current 7-game winning streak is Villanova's longest in Jay Wright's four-year tenure. The longest previous winning streak under Wright was six games, from December 8, 2001 to January 6, 2002. That was during Wright's first season with the Wildcats.
The 7-game winning streak matches the longest for Villanova since another 7-game streak from November 26 to December 22, 2000. That came during the final year of coach Steve Lappas' tenure.
Villanova's last winning streak of longer than seven games was a 10-game winning streak from January 20 to February 17, 1996. Eight of the 10 wins during that streak came against Big East competition.