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Wildcats Aim For Big Five Title Against Pennsylvania

Feb. 5, 2001

Boston College is moving up the national rankings chart and the Villanova Wildcats can attest to the impressive turnaround the Eagles have made.

Boston College defeated the `Cats 89-74 on Sunday afternoon at the Conte Forum. Eight days earlier, BC downed Villanova 90-80 at the Pavilion.

For Villanova, the theme was a familiar one. The Wildcats connected on .509 of their field goal attempts and outrebounded the Eagles, 35-31. But 18 turnovers, 11 of which were Boston College steals, and shaky defense offset the strong efforts in the other two areas.

"I've been saying the same tune for a while, that is, about playing better defensively," said Wildcats head coach Steve Lappas. "It's like you get tired of looking at the stat sheet.

"We have to start playing better defensively."

The Eagles took control in the first half. After a Ricky Wright basket cut the Boston College lead to 21-17, the Wildcats were victimized by a pair of steals that led directly to scores. The Eagles scored the game's next 11 points and put the `Cats in a 15-point hole they spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to dig themselves out of.

"That set the tone in the game, obviously," said Lappas. "We played back and forth the rest of the game."

Masterpiece in the Paint As the obstacles placed before have continued to grow, junior center Michael Bradley simply continues to thrive.

Consider Saturday: Bradley was a force on the interior, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. He was 9-of-11 from the field (.818). that marked the eleventh time this season that Bradley has connected on better than 70 percent of his field goal attempts in a game.

Just how proficient is Bradley?

Well, his overall field goal percentage is .695. Subtract the 27 shots he has taken from beyond the 3-point arc - and the 10 threes he has converted - Bradley is shooting .734 from 2-point field goal range.

The junior has been even better lately. In Big East play he averages 24.2 ppg and 10.6 rpg.

Bradley has been named Big East Player of the Week three times and has the same number of weekly awards from the Philadelphia Big Five.

Big Five Data

The historic City Series makes its debut in the First Union Center tonight.

Villanova earned a leg up in the hunt for the City Series crown with three wins in December. A quick recap:

Villanova 69 Temple 62

On Dec. 5 the Wildcats entertained a raucous Pavilion crowd of 6,500. Jermaine Medley scored 18 points on six 3-point field goals while Gary Buchanan added four triples and 17 points to help hold off a late Owls surge.

Villanova 78 St. Joseph's 75

Before a sellout crowd at the Palestra Villanova got some huge baskets from Medley and freshman Reggie Bryant down the stretch to secure a victory. Bradley paced the `Cats attack with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Villanova 79, La Salle 72.

La Salle led for most of the second half before Bryant and Bradley teamed up to contain the Explorers. Bradley finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds in this duel held at the Palestra.

Villanova is 8-1 in its last nine City Series games covering the past three seasons. Its only defeat in that stretch came on Dec. 15, 1999 to Temple, 69-66 at the Liacouras Center.

The last time Villanova swept four City Series games was in its national championship season of 1984-85. Keep in mind, that the complete round ended in 1991 and was not revived until last season.

No Sales This Month

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.

Where VU Stands Villanova in the Big East Conference rankings this week:

Scoring offense: 5th (78.2 ppg)

Scoring defense: 14th (77.2 ppg)

Scoring margin: 12th (+1.0)

Free Throw Pct.: 8th (.677)

Field Goal Percentage: 1st (.502)

Field Goal Pct. Defense: 14th (.452)

3-point FG Pct.: 14th (.322)

3-point FG Pct. Defense: 13th (.363)

Rebounding: 8th (36.1 rpg)

Rebounding margin: 4th (+3.8)

Rebounding defense: 2nd (32.3 rpg)

Blocked shots: 9th (4.4p bpg)

Assists: 5th (16.8 apg)

Steals: 12th (6.65 spg)

Turnover margin: 13th (-3.75)

Assist/turnover ratio: 10th (0.92)

Free Stuff

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.

At Boston College Buchanan sank a pair of second half free throws. That bit of activity extended his streak of consecutive made free throws to 63, one 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 71-72 (.986) 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.

Wright Time

Ricky Wright did not start in the contest at Boston College but it is he who will pick up the most minutes in the absence of Brooks Sales.

On Saturday he tied his career high with 27 minutes. The product of East Chicago, Ind., was 6-of-9 from the field (.667) and 5-of-7 at the free throw line for 17 points. He also added four rebounds.

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.

With Bryant in full health, Villanova was 10-2. Since he has been ailing, the Wildcats are 2-5 and 1-3 in the games in which he has not appeared.