Jan. 4, 2001
None of the adjectives that applied to the majority of Villanova's ten games prior to Tuesday night fit the matchup with Rutgers.
In fact, it was not the kind of high-octane, wide-open contest that had been the norm through Villanova's ten games leading up to the start of conference play.
But the Big East has always been long on grit and style took a backseat on Tuesday as the Wildcats kicked off the Big East portion of their slate with a 67-63 win.
"We had to rely on our defense tonight and it got us through," said head coach Steve Lappas.
"In looking at the stat sheet, I cannot believe we shot 52 percent from the field. I would have guessed we were closer to 45 percent."
Villanova built a 31-22 edge at halftime but Rutgers made a furious charge behind guard Todd Billet to take a 51-50 lead with 7:10 to go.
"We knew our defense wasn't what it should have been at Georgia," said Medley. "In this game, though, we were tough defensively and it really picked us up."
"We're just learning who we are," said Lappas. "You learn a lot about yourself in a game like this, and it's better to learn from a win."
Over the course of his four years at Villanova, Jermaine Medley has displayed a knack for draining important field goals at a most critical juncture.
It happened again on Tuesday.
With zero field goals on the night, Medley found himself in possession of the basketball near the top of the key. The game clock was under 30 seconds and the shot clock was winding down too.
Medley pulled up for a three.
"You know how I know with him whether it's good?" Lappas asked. "When he really gets off the floor, it's good. He was up on that jumper."
"Honestly," said Medley, "there was no doubt in my mind that it was in."
The ball dropped through the nets and Villanova was on its way to victory.
"I couldn't count how many times he has made that kind of basket for us," Lappas said.
We can document a few of Medley's more memorable big shots:
Jan. 30, 1999 vs. Georgetown: with Villanova tied with the Hoyas in double overtime, Brooks Sales steps in front of an inbound pass, hands the ball to Medley, who throws in a ball from 30 feet to give the Wildcats a 93-90 win at the buzzer.
Feb. 5, 2000 vs. Georgetown: Connects on a 3-point field goal with time on the shot clock winding down and 45 seconds on the game clock. The Wildcats take the lead and walk out of the MCI Center with a 72-69 triumph.
Dec. 5, 2000 vs. Temple: With the Owls having rallied to take the lead 59-56, a Medley 3-point field goal with 5:24 left pulls the Wildcats even. Villanova goes on to a 69-62 win.
Dec. 11, 2000 vs. St. Joseph's: Trailing St. Joseph's 68-66, Medley drops in a triple to give Villanova a 69-68 lead with under two minutes left. In the `Cats next possession, Medley converts another triple to boost the lead to 72-68. Villanova goes on to a 78-75 win.
Dec. 14, 2000 vs. La Salle: At the end of what has been a tough night, Medley resucitates his team with two late rainbow triples. Villanova goes on to a 79-72 win at the Palestra.
"He's certainly a guy who's not afraid to shoot and I mean that as a compliment," said Rutgers head coach Kevin Bannon.
As efficiently as one of those Saturday morning home improvement specialists, junior center Michael Bradley continues to produce quality work.
Tuesday night he finished with 22 points and six rebounds. It was the eigthth time this season that the junior transfer from Worcester, Mass., has scored 20 points or more. In 11 career games, Bradley has never failed to reach double figures and only once - Dec. 5 vs. Temple - did the center make fewer than seven field goals.
In the most recent issue of The Sporting News Bradley is called America's Best Transfer.
With a field goal percentage of .709, Bradley is among the most reliable shooters in the nation as well. Of course, that's not a surprise - as a sophomore at the University of Kentucky in 1998-99 Bradley set the school field goal accuracy mark with a .658 figure.
The highest field goal percentage in Villanova school history is .640 by Ed Pinckney in 1981-82. Interestingly, that was Pinckney's first season on the Main Line too.
Bradley trails only Troy Murphy of Notre Dame among Big East Conference scorers and he tops the league's field goal percentage list.
His biggest shot on Tuesday came with just over three minutes left. After a Billet three had lifted Rutgers back into the lead at 55-54, Bradley responded 14 seconds later with a three of his own. He ranks third on the `Cats in three point field goals made (seven) and connects on .389 of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Craftsman have all the tools and Bradley has demonstrated his kit is as complete as any.
Villanova suffered through its worst night at the free throw line on Tuesday night. The Wildcats were 12-of-26 heading into the last minute before they were rescued by their two most effective men from the line.
With Villanova leading 63-61 and 15.3 seconds left everyone knew where the ball was headed.
"All our guys in the huddle were saying, `get the ball to Gary,'" Lappas said. "He had to get open."
And so he did. Buchanan wiggled loose from a double team and was spotted by Brooks Sales. Buchanan was fouled and then proceeded to the line, where he extended his current free throw shooting streak to 23.
After another Rutgers score, it was Reggie Bryant's turn. The younger half of the B & B More Twins (both played at St. Thomas More School), calmly sank his two free throws despite having played relatively little in the second half.
"Every time I'm stepping to the line, I'm thinking these are good," says Buchanan.
Buchanan was named the Best Free Throw Shooter in America by The Sporting News and for good reason. In a season and a half here he has missed exactly six free throws - two vs. Penn State, one vs. Seton Hall, one vs. Pittsburgh, one vs. Delaware and his only 2000-01 miss vs. Duke. For his career he is 100-of-106 (.943) at the line.
Bryant, meanwhile is 20-of-21 (.952) from the line in his rookie season.