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Villanova Overpowers Philly Rival Drexel in NIT Opener, 85-70

March 17, 2004

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AP Sports Writer

VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) - Randy Foye and Allan Ray each scored 20 points, and Curtis Sumpter had 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead Villanova to an 85-70 win over Drexel in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday night.

Villanova plays Virginia on Saturday.

Ray scored eight straight points during Villanova's decisive 18-0 run that turned a 10-point deficit into a 53-45 lead midway through the second half. The Wildcats (17-16) took their first double-digit lead after a 3-pointer by Mike Nardi and stretched the lead from the free throw line.

It was a rare close game in an incredibly lopsided series between the two Philadelphia-area schools that are separated by about 20 miles. Villanova has won all 17 games in a series that dates back to 1923-24.

Sean Brooks scored a career-high 24 points for Drexel (18-11) and Tim Whitworth had 14.

Brooks and Whitworth combined for 27 points in the first half and the Dragons shot 50 percent from the floor to lead 39-33. They built the lead to 45-35 before it all fell apart.

Drexel coach Bruiser Flint argued with the referees most of the second half over the free throw disparity. The Wildcats scored six points during their run from the line and finished 35-for-42. Flint was whistled for a technical during the spurt and Ray sank a couple of free throws.

Ray - who was 12-for-14 from the floor - gave the Wildcats the lead for a good a possession earlier when he converted a steal in the backcourt into a fast-break dunk.

The Dragons made 16 of 23 free throws and finished the season with three straight losses.

The Wildcats, playing in their fifth straight NIT, built on the momentum gained from the Big East tournament. Villanova beat Seton Hall and Providence to become the first team in the conference tournament's 25-year history to enter with a sub-.500 record and win two games.