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Wildcats Set To Open Big East Play

Jan. 2, 2001

Snow fell outside but on the inside of the Pavilion the Villanova Wildcats were quite eager to make amends for their 91-80 loss on Dec. 28 when they met the St. Francis Red Flash on Saturday night.

"We have had a pretty good start," said Wildcats center Michael Bradley, "but we didn't do a good job at Georgia. We wanted to concentrate on this game and get back to doing the things that had helped us win earlier."

The task was accomplished.

Villanova downed St. Francis 92-65.

St. Francis (Pa.) took an early 15-8 lead on the strength of four 3-point field goals, three by point guard Jamal Ragland. But Villanova clamped down defensively and went on a 22-2 spurt to take control.

The Red Flash never drew closer than 13 points as both coaches substituted liberally in the second half.

"I thought we did a better job defensively and now it's time to get ready for the Big East," said Villanova head coach Steve Lappas. "Nothing will come easily in our next 18 games - 16 in the Big East and against UCLA and Penn."

Glass Upgrade

Following a three game stretch where the opposition had outrebounded Villanova by the count of 123-102 (41-34 per outing), the Wildcats improved on Saturday. Villanova outrebounded the smaller Red Flash 32-22.

"We have a drill where we put these plastic bubbles on the baskets," explained Lappas. "There are a lot of missed shots available in that drill and we spent a good amount of time working on that area."

On the season, the Wildcats are outrebounding their opponents by an average margin of 4.7 per game.

One plus on Saturday was that the team's rebounding leaders, Michael Bradley and Brooks Sales, received a boost from other sources. Particularly helpful was guard Gary Buchanan, who collected a season-high six caroms.

Master Craftsman

As efficiently as one of those Saturday morning home improvement specialists, junior center Michael Bradley went back to work on Saturday night and came up with another terrific performance.

He was 10-of-12 from the field, demonstrating his usual calm demeanor and disdain for wasted motion. It marked the third time this year that Bradley shot better than 80 percent from the floor this year.

Only once all season has Bradley failed to produce at least seven field goals. In that contest, against Temple, he took only four shots and prompted Owls head coach John Chaney into a five minute talk about his skill in his postgame press conference.

"It all flowed from his hands," Chaney said.

St. Francis (Pa.) coach Bobby Jones joined the chorus of boosters following the contest on Saturday night.

"Just a tremendous player," said the former assistant at Pittsburgh and Minnesota.

After a difficult night at the free throw stripe on Dec. 28 at Georgia, Bradley came through with 7-of-9 from the line on Saturday.

"Against Georgia, it was just one of those nights where not much seemed to be going my way," said Bradley. "I was able to get in a groove tonight and felt good there."

Twice this season Bradley has been the Big East Player of the Week. He has also been the Philadelphia Big Five Player of the Week. He also averages 2.5 assists per game and 2.3 blocks.

The New Yankee Workshop has nothing on this New Englander with an assortment of weapons in his basketball tool box.

Jermaine Topics

When Jermaine Medley is on a roll - as he was Saturday night against the Red Flash - Villanova is usually at its best.

"I have told Jermaine that he is one of the big keys for us this year," said Steve Lappas.

In the course of the past three seasons, Villanova is 21-7 (.750) with the senior from Wilmington, Del., as its starting point guard.

Medley has been a strength for Villanova since assuming command of the point guard position on a full-time basis last Feb. 5 at Georgetown. This year he scored 18 points to lead Villanova past Temple 69-62 on Dec. 5 and his huge baskets down the stretch allowed the Wildcats to down Philadelphia Big Five rivals St. Joseph's and La Salle in the span of three days.

"Jermaine is such a good shooter that we can use him at the one or the two," notes Lappas.

Medley's 17 points against St. Francis were one off of his career high. The senior now has 728 points in his career on the Main Line and moved ahead of former VU standout Doug West into 19th place on the school's all-time assist chart on Saturday night. Medley now has 258 career assists. Tom Inglesby is next up the line with 279.

Medley averages 3.8 apg this season.

Variety of Life

Although much of the focus tends to be directed toward Bradley, Villanova can more than hold its own on the perimeter.

"They have a lot of ways to score," noted St. Francis' Jones. "With Buchanan and Medley on the outside and Bradley on the inside, there is a lot to defend."

Buchanan is now connecting on .391 of his 3-point field goal attempts. Medley is not far off that pace at .389 on his attempts from beyond the arc.

In addition, both Bradley (.429) and freshman guard Reggie Bryant (.400) are also in the neighborhood of 40 percent, though that duo has only combined to take 29 triples.

Off the bench, Lappas can call on either Andreas Bloch or Johnny Holley.

As a team Villanova is 71-of-192 from behind the line (.370).

Defense is the Deal

The statistics illustrate the point: when Villanova holds its end of the defensive bargain, it generally prospers.

Indeed, the Wildcats' only two losses this season, at Duke and at Georgia, came when the club surrendered more than 90 points. When it has held the opposition in the 60s or 70s this year, it is 7-0.

Villanova is among the nation's most accurate field goal percentage squads at .536. But it allows 75.0 ppg and foes are making nearly 46 percent of their field goal attempts against Villanova (.458).

It is also a team that moves the basketball. The 25 assists recorded Saturday night gives Villanova 183 on the season, 18.3 per game. Last year, VU averaged 15.64 apg as a team, which placed if fifth in the Big East Conference in all games played.