Jan. 5, 2006
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Louisville coach Rick Pitino had joked that watching Villanova on tape made him sick.
Seeing the third-ranked Wildcats zip by his ninth-ranked Cardinals 76-67 on Thursday night made Pitino dizzy and his players believers about what lies ahead in the Big East.
"I don't think anyone in Louisville knew how tough the Big East and Villanova was before tonight, now they all know," Pitino said. "Villanova was just a better basketball team."
Randy Foye scored 24 points and Allan Ray added 17 as the Wildcats welcomed Louisville to the Big East by featuring the kind of speed and depth the Cardinals rarely faced during their days in Conference USA.
"We played extremely tough and aggressive," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Our defense and rebounding kept us in it. ... Every time Louisville made runs at us (our) guys made big plays. Game number one in the Big East, that's what it's going to be like."
With Foye and Ray forcing the Cardinals to spread the floor, Villanova reserve center Jason Fraser found enough room to score 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting. Villanova outrebounded Louisville 42-34 and held the Cardinals to 43 percent shooting as the Wildcats continued their best start since 1995-96, when they won their first 11 games of the season.
David Padgett led Louisville with 17 points and six rebounds before fouling out with less than 3 minutes to go. Brandon Jenkins and Chad Millard each added 12 points for Louisville, which got only nine points in 18 foul-plagued minutes from leading scorer Taquan Dean.
"We've just learned what to do since our freshman year and that's not to get excited and to execute when we need to," Fraser said. "We just played Villanova basketball better than Louisville played Louisville basketball."
Pitino tried to match Villanova's speed, starting three guards as a way to keep up with Villanova's four-guard lineup.
But the Wildcats simply couldn't keep up. Villanova contested shots, deflected passes and grabbed offensive rebounds while the Cardinals were often left clutching at air.
"Their guards are so unbelievably quick on defense, they slap down a lot and get a lot of steals," Padgett said. "Their press makes it hard for you to run your offense."
The Wildcats never trailed and hardly looked rattled playing their first game west of Pennsylvania. Though Louisville cut the lead to one possession a handful of times in the second half, whenever a big basket needed to be made, Foye or Ray would knock it down.
"When it came down to it, I knew what to do," Foye said. "No one was going to take the ball from me."
The Wildcats had an answer for every combination the Cardinals threw at them. Big lineup. Small lineup. It didn't matter. The Wildcats played with the kind of savvy Pitino knows it will take his team time to learn.
"With seven new players, you're never going to have an experienced lineup," Pitino said. "This is who we are. ... Our guys did a good job. The key is six weeks from now, how good can we become."
Foye hit his first four shots and the Wildcats took a 21-9 lead, rattling the Cardinals with their quickness.
Dean picked up his third foul 9 minutes in, but the Cardinals collected themselves behind improbable contributions from freshmen Millard and Bryan Harvey.
"The fouls took me out of it," Dean said. "I had a lot of energy but maybe I was too anxious. I thought our guys played well."
Harvey and Millard entered the game combining for less than four points per game but they had 12 in the first half as the Cardinals drew within a point before a late run put the Wildcats up 36-30 at halftime.
"You can't just sit back," Foye said. "You've got to get out on them and be aggressive. Coach told us we had to come out with a lot of energy. You've got to be tough and you can't get your head down anytime."