Jan. 26, 2005
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Villanova's 83-62 win over No. 2 Kansas on Saturday was easily one of the biggest in school history, but players said Wednesday night's 65-60 victory over Notre Dame at the Wachovia Center was even more important.
"It was a huge, huge win because we entered the game with a 2-3 record in the Big East," said guard Allan Ray, who scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting. "Before the Kansas game, we had been struggling a bit. This win tonight gives us even more confidence."
Ray connected on two clutch free throws with 43.7 seconds remaining to give Villanova a commanding 62-57 lead. When the game was over, Ray thrust his arms in the air.
"This win was so much more meaningful," Ray said. "Don't get me wrong. The win over Kansas was great. But this being a Big East game we needed, it's sweet."
Randy Foye added 20 points and topped the 1,000-point mark for his career. He began the game with 990 points. Curtis Sumpter contributed 11 points and nine rebounds for the Wildcats (11-4, 3-3 Big East). Will Sheridan added a season-high 12 rebounds.
"I'm feeling really good about these guys," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "These guys got rewarded for their effort. It's still nice when you can get two wins like this. Everyone was awesome for us tonight. That was a great effort against a really good team."
For a while, it seemed that Villanova was not going to capitalize on the win over Kansas. The Wildcats trailed 37-30 at halftime and 52-46 with 11:46 left, but responded with a 13-2 run to take a 59-54 lead with 3:30 remaining.
"We never panicked when we were down," Villanova guard Mike Nardi said. "Beating a team like Kansas might have seemed like such a big upset. But we know what kind of team we're capable of being. This win against Notre Dame is even more special because it came right after such a big victory."
Torin Francis led Notre Dame (12-5, 4-3) with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Quinn added 13 points and Chris Thomas had 12 for the Fighting Irish. Thomas struggled from the field (4 of 14) but chipped in eight rebounds and six assists while playing all 40 minutes.
"We couldn't get in any rhythm offensively," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "You've got to give their defense credit. They really locked us up in the second half. They did a good job of taking away our offensive sets."