Villanova Hopes to Avenge Last Year's Controversial Loss to Miami
Feb. 15, 2001
Villanova Wildcats (15-8 overall, 6-5 Big East)
Tonight's Top Stories
Streak is Snapped: Sophomore guard Gary Buchanan's streak of consecutive made free throws came to an end with 4.6 seconds left in Monday night's 59-56 win over No. 18 Georgetown. Buchanan drained 73 between misses, establishing a new NCAA Division I record.
Defense Is A Factor: The Wildcats have strung together three straight strong defensive efforts in defeating Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Georgetown. Villanova held the Hoyas to 27 percent shooting from the field and allowed 167 points (55.7 ppg) in those three contest.
West Virginia Awaits: A visit to West Virginia University is on tap next on Tuesday night. That game will be televised by ESPN2. Villanova is in a stretch of four straight games played on national TV.
On the surface Monday did not appear to be Villanova's night. Senior point guard Jermaine Medley, still nursing a sore lower right left injured two days earlier against Connecticut, started at Georgetown but last only three minutes. Junior forward Brooks Sales, meanwhile, watched the game in civilian clothes as he continues on the mend from a fractured right hand. Freshman guard Reggie Bryant attempted to shake off the rust after seven games on the sidelines due to a pulled abdominal muscle. So when Villanova fell behind 45-36 with 9:36 to go against the No. 18 ranked Hoyas, there wasn't much to be encouraged about. Even for the head coach. "When we were down nine, we were dying," said Steve Lappas. "We were down nine because we were really tired. That's a problem, because how are you going to get any rest? But somehow and some way, we got our legs back, and we gutted it out." Villanova used defense as its anchor and when Derrick Snowden scored on a drive with 5:14 to play, Villanova led 49-47. The Wildcats then held off every Georgetown surge and received a huge lift when Gary Buchanan drained a long 3-point field goal with 15.3 seconds to play and the `Cats nursing a 55-53 advantage. "We played without Brooks and Jermaine," Lappas said. "Reggie Bryant played his first of any kind of minutes in five weeks. So we've had a lot of adversity and our kids have done a great job of responding to it." Injuries Have Had An Impact It's a statistic that is more often used in football but in the 2000-2001 campaign it sheds a bit of light on what Lappas referred to following the Georgetown win. Injuries have played a major role at Villanova this year to a far greater degree than they have in recent years on the Main Line. Consider that only four Wildcats - Michael Bradley, Buchanan, Ricky Wright and Medley - have seen action in all of the team's 23 games. And Medley only saw brief action at Georgetown due to the ankle injury. Through 23 games, Villanova has already lost 15 man games to injury - Bryant (7), Andrew Sullivan (2), Sales (5) and Johnny Holley (1). That also doesn't factor in that Bryant played five games in early January where his effectiveness was greatly reduced by his injury or that Medley barely played against the Hoyas. In contrast, Villanova lost nine man games to injury through all of the 1999-2000 season and all of them belonged to Holley, who suffered a knee injury in a Jan. 8 practice. They lost the same number during the 1998-99 campaign - eight for Holley and one for John Celestand. So, Villanova is on course to lose as many man games to injury in 2000-2001 as it did in the previous two seasons combined. (Sales isn't expected to return until early March).
Spirit of St. Louis
The remarkable run of Gary Buchanan at the free throw line came to an end on Feb. 12 at the MCI Center. Buchanan missed the first of two free throw attempts with 4.6 seconds remaining to end his streak of 73 consecutive made free throws. No Division I player in history made more free throws in succession than Buchanan. 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. "When I stepped to the line I was overconfident and I shot the ball short," said Buchanan. "I'm kind of sad that the streak is over, but I guess I'll just have to start another one." There is another potential mark on the horizon. 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 is 82-of-82 (.976) at the line this season with five regular season games and postseason action remaining. Of course, it should be noted that Buchanan made the evening's biggest shot, the 3-point field goal with 15.3 seconds left. "That was a huge three," said Georgetown coach Craig Esherick. "I would rather see him continue the streak than make that 3-point shot."
If there is any one area in which Villanova has stepped up its game of late is at the defensive end of the floor. Employing a variety of defenses, both zone and man, the Wildcats have played their best defense of the season of late. The Wildcats last three opponents - Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Georgetown - have shot a combined 60-of-187 (.320) from the field. Prior to this stretch, Villanova's opponents were connecting on .453 of their field goal attempts. What's more, Villanova improved its record when it holds opponents below 80 points to 13-1 (.929) with the win at Georgetown. When the `Cats permit the opposition to score more than 80 points they are 2-7 (.286). Last year the Wildcats allowed only two opponents - Syracuse and Kent - to go past the 80 point plateau.
Masterpiece in the Paint
Villanova's All-American candidate Michael Bradley posted another terrific performance in the 59-56 win at Georgetown on Monday. Bradley was 7-of-10 (.700) from the field and scored 24 points. He also converted his 11th 3-point field goal of the season and added eight rebounds in the victory. Plus, he had four assists and three steals while toiling 37 minutes against the large frames of Georgetown's interior players. Villanova is 6-2 in games where Bradley has four or more assists this season. On Monday it was announced that the native of Worcester, Mass., is one of 15 finalists for the Naismith College Player of the Year Award. The winner will be announced on April 7 by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. Bradley is the first Wildcat to make the list since Kerry Kittles did so as a senior in 1995-96.
Training Room Report
Medley is listed as probable for tonight's action after sitting out all but the first three minutes of Monday evening's clash with Georgetown with a bruised lower leg, courtesy of a second half collision with Caron Butler against Connecticut on Feb. 10. Bryant saw his first action on Monday after missing seven games with a pulled abdominal muscle. 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 month. 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. 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.
Freshman guard Derrick Snowden took over the point guard responsibilities with Medley on the sidelines and prospered despite the relentless pressure applied by Georgetown's guards. "Derrick did a tremendous job for us," said Lappas. Snowden scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting and scored on two key drives in the last 5:14 to help Villanova keep the lead. It was also his steal and conventional 3-point play that ignited the Wildcats' rally from a 45-49 deficit with just over nine minutes left in the half. Most significantly, Snowden committed only one turnover in his career-high 31 minutes. Perhaps Snowden's three best games this year have all taken place in hostile environments - he scored five points at Duke, eight at Georgetown and 12 against St. John's in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 20.
It went somewhat unnoticed with the late-game heroics of Snowden, Bradley and Buchanan, but sophomore Ricky Wright played an integral role in the win. The native of East Chicago, Ind., was one of only three Wildcats to score in the first half (Bradley and Buchanan) were the others. He ended the night with 12 points and eight rebounds in a career high 31 minutes. Wright's role has increased in the absence of Sales. He has started the last three games and improved his season scoring average to 7.3 ppg. His rebounding numbers are up to 4.2 rpg and he shoots .558 from the field.
Philadelphia Big Five
Villanova clinched the Big Five title with an 80-51 triumph over the University of Pennsylvania on Feb. 6 at the First Union Center.
The standings: Villanova 4-0 St. Joseph's 2-1 La Salle 1-1 Temple 1-2 Pennsylvania 0-4Villanova's four game sweep was its first since the 1984-85 season. In all, Villanova has won or shared the City Series crown 15 times. The Philadelphia Big Five resumed complete round robin competition for the 1999-2000 season. Villanova is 9-1 (.900) in Big Five action over the past three seasons.