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No. 19 Wildcats Pummel Pirates, 79-58

March 2, 2005

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AP Sports Writer

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Randy Foye was challenged by coach Jay Wright to snap Villanova out of a plodding first half.

The junior guard answered with an instant impact on the second possession after halftime, intercepting a pass and completing the splendid swindle with a fastbreak dunk that set the tone for a game-changing run.

"I just saw my opportunity to get a steal, so I got a steal and just tried to spark us and the crowd," Foye said.

He scored a career-high 27 points and Curtis Sumpter added 19 to lead No. 19 Villanova to a 79-58 victory over Seton Hall on Wednesday night.

Allan Ray scored 16 points for the Wildcats (20-6, 10-5 Big East), who won 20 games for the first time since the 1999-2000 season under former coach Steve Lappas. The Wildcats had never won more than 19 games in four seasons under Wright.

"It's a good first step for us, but the team can still be better," Sumpter said.

Villanova has a first-round bye in the Big East tournament and also appears headed back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.

The Wildcats led by one when they went on a 24-2 run in the second half to blow the game open. Sumpter was struggling until that spurt, making only one of his first 10 shots.

Then Sumpter, Villanova's second-leading scorer, found his stroke from the perimeter and hit two 3-pointers and a couple of short jumpers during the run to deflate Seton Hall (11-15, 3-12). He made five of his last six shots.

"I was missing shots, but I was still being aggressive," Sumpter said. "I just wanted to maintain being aggressive and I knew the shots were going to come."

But it was Foye's steal off a pass by Grant Billmeier earlier in the half - one of 18 turnovers by Seton Hall - that really got the Wildcats back on track.



"We're used to our defense creating some offense for us," Wright said. "I kind of felt like we were getting it going again."

The Pirates gave a spirited effort in the first half, shooting 48 percent to only trail 37-36. The Pirates thumped their chests and pumped their fists after a couple of clutch shots that kept them in the game.

"In the first half, I thought we did a real nice job," Seton Hall coach Louis Orr said. "We competed and I thought we made them work."

Then it all fell apart as the Wildcats tightened their defense.

Villanova held the Pirates to just eight field goals in the second half. Kelly Whitney scored 12 points for the Pirates who are 0-8 against ranked teams this year, with two of the losses to Villanova.

Villanova got limited minutes from starting point guard Mike Nardi, who missed the last two games with a sprained ankle. Nardi did not start - 10th man Tom Grace got the nod on senior night - but Kyle Lowry again ably filled in.

Foye made his mark as Villanova's defensive stopper, but the junior has been overlooked in an offense featuring Sumpter and Ray.

Not against Seton Hall. Foye went 11-for-15 from the field and scored over 20 points for the sixth time this season. He surpassed his previous high of 26 points set last month against Notre Dame.

"He's developed into such a great guard," Wright said.

Foye and Ray each hit three 3-pointers, helping the Wildcats finish 12-1 at home this year.

"I thought we played hard every night in here which is hard to do for everybody," Wright said. "At the end of the year, I'll talk about all this stuff."