Nov. 30, 2005
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Villanova has beaten three teams it should have by hitting 3-pointers in bunches.
The fourth-ranked Wildcats, who start four guards, will soon find out how they will do against one the best frontlines in the country.
The Wildcats (3-0) went 13-for-32 from beyond the arc 19 feet, 9 inches away, one game after setting a school record with 17 3s against Lehigh.
Mike Nardi had all 18 of his points on 3s for Villanova, which hosts No. 5 Oklahoma on Saturday, easily the biggest and most physical team the Wildcats will have faced this season with a frontcourt that includes Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout.
"I think that when we shoot the ball well like that, we're tough to guard," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I thought we beat a good team. I like the energy we played with and our guards at the front of our press really put pressure on people."
Then came the question of facing a fellow member of the Top 25 without forward Curtis Sumpter, who is out indefinitely after preseason knee surgery.
"We'll have a better feel about that after Saturday," Wright said. "Sometimes when you play mid-major teams you match up better with four guards. I like how our forwards played tonight against quicker guys. We need to know what we'll do against a big team like Oklahoma."
Villanova hit the 17 3s on Sunday in 33 attempts with Ray setting school marks with eight in 16 tries. Nardi was 6-for-10 on 3s against Rider (1-3), while Ray was 3-for-11.
"With Kyle there to help at the point, I'm off the ball more and getting some looks," Nardi said. "I was just spotting up and knocking down shots."
Jason Thompson had 15 points for the Broncs, who made one brief run in the second half to get within 54-43 with 14:54 left. But Lowry had a traditional three-point play, Ray a 3 and Lowry two free throws in an 8-0 run that ended any thoughts of a comeback.
Villanova was much quicker than Rider and the Wildcats' active hands in both the man-to-man and zone defense created turnovers. Lowry, a sophomore who was 6-for-8 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line, was the most active of the Wildcats on offense and he was the catalyst inside when the 3-point shooters did struggle.
His three-point play that started the 8-0 run was the one Villanova considered a key to keeping Rider at bay.
"They were making a run and we had to keep our composure," Lowry said of the drive on which he was fouled. "I had to make a play and it happened to be a good one."
Nardi thought it was better than good.
"That punched the air out of them when Kyle made that play and the free throw," Nardi said. "That gave us a cushion and we built on it from there."
Wright said he wanted to see how his team responded when the Broncs made the run.
"That was a big play," he said of Lowry's three-point play. "They were extending on our shooters and we missed a couple and Kyle took it down the lane and made a smart play for us. We took the hit and kept building."
Rider interim head coach Tommy Dempsey said Villanova's speed was overwhelming to his team early.
"It was a rough start to overcome but once we adjusted to the speed, I thought we were very competitive," Dempsey said.
"We don't play the No. 4 team in the country very often. The confidence level, the quickness, that stuff is something that hits you all at once. Once we got a feel for how they were going to play and made adjustments, I liked the way we played for about 30 minutes."
Even though the game was played at Sovereign Bank Arena, Villanova was the host school. It was the Wildcats' first appearance in the building about an hour from their Philadelphia-area campus. Rider, which is much closer in Lawrenceville, dropped to 3-11 in the building.
The Wildcats started the game with an 11-2 run with all but two of the points coming on 3-pointers. They mostly stayed behind the arc in building a 33-13 lead, going 6-for-11 on 3s in the opening 11 1/2 minutes.
They did miss five straights 3-point attempts, but that drought ended when Ray hit their ninth of the half with 2 seconds left to make it 46-26. Villanova had nine 3s in the half and Rider had eight field goals.