March 1, 2006
They had been through too much to let injury or emotion stand in their way of leaving their home court winners.
Foye scored 14 straight points for No. 4 Villanova and finished with 21, and Ray shook off a sprained knee to score 15 in the Wildcats' 65-52 win over St. John's on Wednesday night.
"I kind of got emotional out there, but I didn't want nobody to see me tear up," Foye said.
No tears, though Foye did tear it up.
Two of the most instrumental players in returning the Wildcats (23-3, 13-2 Big East) to the nation's elite, Foye and Ray took turns carrying the scoring load in each half of their final home game, and helped the Wildcats finish 12-1 at home this season.
"We enjoyed this and we wanted to cherish every moment of it," coach Jay Wright said.
Foye hit four 3-pointers in a stretch where he scored 14 straight Villanova points in the first half that helped build a nine-point lead. Playing with a brace on his left knee after he sprained it in a loss Sunday at Connecticut, Ray showed no signs of pain while driving toward some late-game baskets that helped the Wildcats pull away.
"The brace was really good, it eliminated the pain," Ray said. "Even if I was on the bench I was still going to cheer the guys on. Just to play was very special."
The Red Storm (12-14, 5-10) hung tight most of the game, still within single digits with 6 1/2 minutes left, but simply didn't have enough to keep pace with the Wildcats. Eugene Lawrence and Lamont Hamilton each scored 15 points for the Red Storm.
Ricky Torres made his only basket of the game, a 3-pointer, midway through the half to pull St. John's within 46-39. Hamilton kept the deficit at seven when he scored on a tip-in, but Ray answered any questions about his health with a dunk and Mike Nardi hit a 3 to help give the Wildcats a 17-point lead.
They cruised from there, allowing Ray and Foye to leave the court to a standing ovation and each shared a hug with Wright. Ray scored 12 points in the second half.
Foye and Ray were the only regular starters as part of a senior night lineup. Chris Charles, Baker Dunleavy and Jason Fraser started for the Wildcats and were honored during a pregame ceremony. They were all greeted by Wright and Curtis Sumpter, who would have been part of the senior class had he not twice torn his ACL and took a medical redshirt.
The Wildcats had a busy last two days, holding two news conferences to update Ray and Sumpter's injuries, prepare for an emotional senior night and answer questions about being able to bounce back from the UConn loss.
"You're always concerned about how it's going to affect these guys," Wright said.
There was little need to worry in this one.
St. John's shot well in the first half when it was able to hold on to the ball. Possession was a problem, with the Red Storm committing 13 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the game. Still, it was tied until Foye took over, hitting a 3, a 19-footer, then three straight 3-pointers. Foye finished with 16 points in the first half as the Wildcats took a 35-30 lead.
The Red Storm finished with 27 turnovers and shot 29 percent in the second half after a solid 56 percent in the first.
"We have to do a better job of taking care of the basketball, but their pressure had a lot to do with it." coach Norm Roberts said.
The Red Storm need a victory against Rutgers on Sunday for a chance to be one of the 12 teams in next week's Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden.
"We're supposed to go," Lawrence said. "It's our home away from home. For us not to make it would be really disappointing."