Jan. 23, 2001
Fresh from a huge turnaround victory over Virginia Tech last week, Villanova visited Madison Square Garden, a place it has historically fared well.
For the first 10 minutes, it looked like the Wildcats might again walk on to the corner of 34th Street and Eighth Avenue with smiles on their faces.
Alas, the next 30 minutes were much different.
When Villanova point guard Derrick Snowden picked up his second personal foul with 10:16 to go in the first half and left the game, the tide turned. By halftime, St. John's held a 34-29 edge and the `Cats had tied a season low for first half points.
Snowden's return in the second half, though, did not stem the momentum. Instead, a rash of Villanova turnovers led to easy scores for the Red Storm, who were never really threatened after opening up a double-digit advantage in points early in the second half.
"The turnovers, obviously, are killing us," said Villanova head coach Steve Lappas. "It's not like they were travels either, where at least you have a chance to get back and play defense after you make a mistake. They had 14 steals and a lot of them led to easy baskets for them."
A measure of the impact of turnovers can be found in the fact that Villanova outrebounded St. John's 34-31 and were more accurate from the field than the Red Storm, connecting on .490 of their attempts as compared to .453 for St. John's. But St. John's only gave the ball away 12 times while Villanova nearly doubled that total, surrendering it 23 times on the afternoon.
Masterpiece in the Paint
The plaudits keep coming in for junior forward/center Michael Bradley.
This week the native of Worcester, Mass., shared Big East player of the week honors with Anthony Glover of St. Johnson. In two games last week, Bradley scored 50 points (25 ppg), established new career highs in points (29) and assists (seven), both against Virginia Tech, collected his sixth double-double of the season (against St. John's) and grabbed 21 rebounds (10.5 rpg).
Bradley, who came to Villanova by way of the University of Kentucky, now has scored 20 or more points in exactly 75 percent of the Wildcats` games. He has reached double figures in every game he has played for the `Cats (16).
The Bradley family is no stranger to Connecticut. David Bradley, Michael's father, played basketball at Fairfield University in the 1970s. His brother David played college basketball at Charleston Southern University.
"This has been a great opportunity for me to come in here and show people the things I can do," Bradley stated. "I am happy to be out there and am enjoying it."
But even the big man with the great ball skills has been bitten by the turnover bug.
Bradley has surrendered the ball 12 times in the last three games - four per game.
Holley saw a career high of 19 minutes in the loss to St. John's and scored a career high 11 points. The native of McKinney, Tex., bothered throughout his career by knee woes, scored more points on Saturday (11) than he did in his first two seasons on the Main Line (nine).
In his previous outing Holley contributed defensively. Matched against Virginia Tech's Brian Chase, Holley kept Chase off the scoreboard after he had exploded for 22 first half points. With its offensive leader under wraps, Virginia Tech struggled to score.
"He did a great job on Brian," said Virginia Tech head coach Ricky Stokes. "Putting a big guy like that on him made the difference. He couldn't get the ball and when he did he wasn't able to get his shot off."
Holley affected the game in another way.
"Johnny has a very big heart," said Buchanan. "When I saw him out there, playing his hardest, that made me play that much harder. We dug deeper and played hard for Johnny."
Holley was on the floor for 10 minutes and, with tears in his eyes at the postgame press conference, spoke of what the evening meant to him.
"Coach had been telling me all along, `You're going to get your chance, Holley, just hang in there, just keep fighting,'" said Holley. "I finally got my chance.
"It means a lot to me personally. I felt like it's been a pretty long road. The whole time my coaches and my teammates had my back. That's one thing I can say, no matter how far or how low I went in my career, no matter what was at home or here, they always had my back. You'll never understand how much I appreciate that."
Turnovers haven't been the only vexing element for Villanova of late. Its old friend, the 3-point area, hasn't been nearly as generous as it was earlier in the Lappas era.
In the last four games, Villanova has converted just 19 3-point field goals, an average of 4.8 per game. On the season it has converted 101 treys, an average of 6.3 per game.
There are several reasons for the shortfall.
For one thing, Reggie Bryant has been plagued by a nagging abdominal muscle pull. After hitting six by the end of December, he has hit none in January and is 0-4 on the month.
"Reggie was a big part of what we accomplished in December and not having him at full strength really has hurt us," said Lappas.
Another factor is that Jermaine Medley and Gary Buchanan have seen their production from deep suffer of late. Villanova's top two 3-point shooters were 0-8 on Saturday. Medley is 5-of-20 (.250) in his last three games from beyond the arc.
Spirit of St. Louis
One area where Buchanan has not slacked off is at the free throw line. He is 51-of-52 (.981) at the line this year, the only miss having come at Duke on Nov. 17. Entering tonight's action he carries a streak of 43 consecutive made free throws, four off of the school record he established as a freshman in `99-00.
In 49 games at Villanova, Buchanan has missed a total of six free throws.
Earlier this year The Sporting News tabbed Buchanan as the nation's best free throw shooter.
Training Room Update
Two members of the Wildcats are currently nursing injuries.
Forward Andrew Sullivan sprained his left knee in a practice session on Jan. 15. He did not dress against Virginia Tech or St. John's and is questionable for Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, freshman guard Reggie Bryant continues to be hindered by a strained abdominal muscle. It kept him out of the St. John's game.
Bryant's status remains day-to-day.
Where It Ranks
The comeback over Virginia Tech was one for the annals.
The Villanova turnaround on Wednesday is bettered by only five such second half reversals in NCAA history. In order the largest second half deficits overcome:
1. 31 points: Duke 74, Tulane 72 (Dec. 30, 1950)
1. 31 points: Kentucky 99, LSU 95 (Feb. 15, 1994)
3. 29 points: George Mason 96, St. Francis (Pa.) 95 (Dec. 20, 1996)
4. 27 points: Princeton 50, Penn 49 (Feb. 9, 1999)
5. 26 points: Charlotte 79, Tennessee 76 (Nov. 29, 1995)
6. 23 points: South Carolina 67, Cincinnati 65 (Feb.1, 1998)
6. 23 points: VU 86, Va. Tech 74 (Jan. 17, 2001)
The comeback ranks as the largest second half deficit ever overcome in a Big East Conference game.
75 is Significant
The ledger shows that when Villanova has reached 75 points in the last nine years, its odds of success are great.
Under Steve Lappas, the Wildcats are 108-20 (.844) when they score 75 points or more in a game. Last year, Villanova was 8-1 in such contests and is now 9-2 (.818) in that department this season.