Villanova-Saint Mary's Preview
Jay Wright at Friday's press conference (AP)
 
Jay Wright at Friday's press conference (AP)
 

March 19, 2010

Villanova NCAA Tournament Central

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Scottie Reynolds refuses to admit there's trouble stirring with Villanova. Take a look at the record: 25 wins, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and a second-round game Saturday vs. Saint Mary's.

What's wrong that?

On the surface, nothing.

Almost any team would take that kind of mark and love to still be playing. Texas, Georgetown, Temple.

Yet, for some, there is a feeling that all is not well at the BIG EAST power Jay Wright built. The Wildcats have been spotty on and off the court for most of the last month.

They stumbled to a 2-5 finish. Reynolds and the Wildcats shot poorly and needed overtime to get past Robert Morris in the first round.

"I do understand what it looks like from the outside. I can't argue that," Wright said Friday. "There are a lot of little things, but they're little things we believe in our program and we just believe it's going to make ourselves stronger. ... A lot of it is just college kids being college kids and learning and us trying to teach them."

"It's hard for people on the outside to understand what's going on with our team," Reynolds said. "There ain't nothing wrong with our team. ... It's hard for people to understand because they don't have the full story. They're not 100 percent in our inner circle, and that's OK with us."

The Wildcats have not had a consistent interior presence and have allowed 72.9 points per game; only Seton Hall and Providence were worse in the BIG EAST. The Wildcats ranked 278th out of 334 Division I teams.

The big men showed some life in a 73-70 overtime win over Robert Morris: Maurice Sutton blocked four shots, Mouphtaou Yarou blocked three, and the Wildcats had 10 overall.

 

 

Villanova has held only two teams to under 60 points in the last 22 games.

Reynolds hoisted 3s against the Colonials like he was participating in the NBA All-Star weekend competition. But he missed 7 of 8 3s and 13 of 15 overall from the floor. He still stands just 30 points away from passing Kerry Kittles on Villanova's career scoring list.

That put them in a familiar first-round deficit. They've made a habit in recent tournaments of slow starts only to bring the heat in the second half and advance. They trailed by 14 in the second half of last year's opener to American and rolled to a 13-point win. They were down 36-18 to Clemson in the 2008 first-round game and won by six.

"I think after the season we're going to take a look at that," Wright said.

The Wildcats have won all four second-round tournament games under Wright since 2005. That's not a good sign for Saint Mary's (27-5), which advanced with an 80-71 win over Richmond for their first NCAA victory in six tries since 1959.

"I know we weren't favored to win, but apparently nobody expected us to win," Saint Mary's center Omar Samhan said. "I've had tons of e-mails and text messages, 'I can't believe you won, you messed up my bracket, but that's great."

"And that's from my mom."

Saint Mary's, which won the West Coast Conference, has the mammoth frontline in the 6-foot-11 Samhan and 6-11 Ben Allen that could give the Wildcats fits.

Samhan had 29 points and 12 rebounds despite spending most of the Richmond game in foul trouble. The Gaels know going inside is their best chance at pulling off a second straight tournament upset.

"It can be an advantage if you use it," coach Randy Bennett said. "And I'm sure they'll do everything they can to keep the ball out of the post."

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