Feb. 2, 2001
Villanova came to Providence hoping to make amends for a home loss to the Friars at the Pavilion on Jan. 9.
They did, so, however, with a depleted roster.
Brooks Sales, a starter for the past two years, is sidelined with a broken right (shooting) hand (see below). Reggie Bryant, was again in street clothes as he copes with a pulled abdominal muscle that cost him most of January.
"We aren't the same team we were in December," said head coach Steve Lappas. "We aren't playing with the same guys. We are playing with a 6-7 power forward and when he comes out of the game we are basically using small forwards at the four spot.
"It's hurt us, no question."
Villanova used a zone defense early in the first half and held the Friars in check. But a long scoring drought - more than seven minutes - put the `Cats in a hole they spent the rest of the evening trying to extricate themselves from.
At halftime, Providence led 37-28.
Villanova cut the lead to five, 57-52 after Jermaine Medley swished a 3-point field goal at the 9:37 mark in the second half. But the Friars' depth - nine players played at least 11 minutes - wore the undermanned `Cats down late in the contest.
Masterpiece in the Paint
The loss of his prime interior sidekick, Brooks Sales, did not deter Michael Bradley on Wednesday night against the Friars. He ended the night with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field (.625) and also drained his 10th 3-point field goal of the season.
In addition, Bradley grabbed 13 rebounds and helped Villanova outrebound the Friars 36-30.
Today, the native of Worcester makes his first collegiate appearance in his native Massachusetts. Bradley was a standout at Burncoat High School before signing with the University of Kentucky, where he played for two years before transferring to Villanova at the start of the 1999-2000 school year.
In 19 games for the `Cats, Bradley has been nothing short of remarkable. He has scored 20 or more points in 15 of those games and has never failed to reach double figures.
On the glass he has been a demon too, collecting double figures in that category on eight occasions this winter, including against Providence. Bradley averages 22.3 points, 9.6 rebounds per game.
Bradley has been named Big East player of the week three times and has also earned the same distinction on three occasions from the Philadelphia Big Five.
No Sales Today
Junior forward Brooks Sales, Villanova's third leading scorer this season at 10.3 ppg, will be out of action due to a broken right hand (shooting) suffered last week.
"Brooks is an important part of what we do and not having him definitely hinders us," said Lappas.
Sales was averaging 27 minutes per game and played one of the best games of his college career five days prior to the injury. The native of Bloomfield, Conn., scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a win over No. 20 Connecticut on Jan. 24. He also made a diving grab for a loose basketball that typified Villanova's effort that night.
The injury occurred when Sales attempted to break his fall after slipping on some ice. Surgery was performed on Jan. 31 at Bryn Mawr Hospital by team orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Rob Good.
It is projected that Sales will require three to six weeks of recovery time.
Gary Buchanan likes to call them "free points." And for this 6-4 sophomore from St. Louis, that is most certainly what free throws are.
Against Providence, Buchanan converted both of his free throw attempts. That bit of activity extended his streak of consecutive made free throws to 61, three shy of the NCAA Division I record established by Joe Dykstra of Western Illinois in 1981-82.
Buchanan has already smashed the Villanova record for consecutive made free throws on two occasions. Last season he broke the old mark of 30 held by Tom Sienkiewicz by making 45 straight free throws from Dec. 11-Feb. 26. He then moved past his own mark when he went 10-for-10 at Connecticut on Jan. 24.
Paul Cluxton is recognized as the NCAA consecutive free throw champion. As a senior at Division II Northern Kentucky in 1996-97 he drained all 94 of his free throw attempts.
This year Buchanan is 69-70 at the free throw line, his only miss coming in a game at Duke on Nov. 17.
"I have never had an entire team during a game agree that we have to get the ball to one player but this team does that with Gary," said Lappas.
The highest free throw percentage for a season in Division I was recorded by Penn State's Craig Collins in 1984-85 (94-of-98, .959). Buchanan currently leads the NCAA at .986.
The most consecutive made free throws in the National Basketball Association is 97, set by Micheal Williams of Minnesota in 1993. A high school player, Daryl Moreau of New Orleans De La Salle, once converted 126 in a row.
In Search of Balance
The Wildcats have four players with double figure scoring averages this season: Bradley, Buchanan, Sales, and Jermaine Medley.
Lately, though, the Wildcats haven't had the kind of scoring balance they were accustomed to earlier in the season. In large part that is due to the absence of Sales and Reggie Bryant.
A look at the Big East Conference only stats reveals the dilemma the lack of scoring balance has become lately: Bradley and Buchanan have combined to average 38.9 ppg. The rest of the squad is averaging 34.7 ppg and that includes the 7.7 ppg of Sales that is not presently available to the team.
Man of the Moment
Perhaps the man most directly impacted by the absence of Sales is sophomore forward Ricky Wright.
Wright made the fourth start of his college career and first of 2000-2001 at Providence on Wednesday. He concluded the evening with seven points and five rebounds in 25 minutes.
In his last two games, the native of East Chicago, Ind., has scored 19 points.
Not surprisingly, Wright's minutes on Wednesday tied his career high in that department, set last year at Syracuse. It's fair to assume that this figure is in jeopardy again today.
On the season Wright is Villanova's fifth leading scorer at 6.4 ppg. He is converting .554 of his attempts from the field and .684 of his free throw attempts.
Bryant's Been Missed
Freshman guard Reggie Bryant was last healthy on Dec. 30 when the Wildcats defeated St. Francis (Pa.) 92-65. The native of Baltimore subsequently suffered a pulled abdominal muscle.
Neither he nor his team have been the same since.
Bryant attempted to play through the pain during the first five games in the new year. However, he only scored five points in that span and he only remotely resembled the player whom had posted 17 points at the University of Georgia on Dec. 28.
"Reggie's absence has been a huge blow," said head coach Steve Lappas.
Bryant has not dressed for the last four games and remains doubtful for this afternoon's matchup with Boston College.