'Cats Handcuff Carleton University in Exhibition Tour Opener 61-46
Sept. 1, 2007
OTTAWA - With a host of new faces in unfamiliar roles, Villanova turned to an old staple to pull away from Carleton University en route a 61-46 victory in the first of four exhibition games to be played here over Labor Day weekend.
"We really pride ourselves on our defense," stated Wildcat head coach Jay Wright. "With so many young guys and only a week of practicing together, I wasn't really sure how we would look defensively. I was actually pretty impressed."
The `Cats never allowed the Ravens to create a smooth offensive flow before an enthusiastic crowd at their two-year old on campus home here, the Ravens' Nest. It took Carleton more than four minutes to record their first basket and it never really got untracked offensively. Villanova limited Carleton to .282 percent shooting from the field on the night.
"I liked how quickly our guys learned to play together," stated Wright. "We communicated on defense and played hard. That's the most important thing we ask of our guys."
For the opener of the four game tour, Wright and his coaching staff leaned on experience in the starting lineup. Juniors Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham joined sophomores Reggie Redding, Scottie Reynolds and Casiem Drummond for the opening tip. A pair of Clark baskets helped stake VU to an early 6-0 lead.
The Ravens could locate only one offensive safety valve, center Aaron Doornekamp, and he did his best to keep Carleton close, scoring 15 of his team's first 17 points. Yet by the time he had those points, the `Cats owned a 21-17 advantage.
Carleton led only once all night, 7-6, on a Doornekamp 3-point field goal with 12:31 left in the first half. The Wildcats outscored the Ravens 21-13 the rest of the way in the first half to take a 27-19 advantage into intermission.
An early surge keyed by Cunningham and Reynolds pushed the VU lead to 34-19 with 17:44 to go in the second half. Doornekamp kept shooting, however, and a Wildcat dry spell helped Carleton draw within 42-37 with 8:40 to go.
But each time, the Ravens threatened, Villanova had a response. In most cases, those answers came from the three most battle-tested veterans: Reynolds, Clark, and Cunningham. Each made big plays over the contest's final eight minutes while the defense clamped down on Doornekamp. The `Cats quietly pulled away, scoring the game's final seven points to put a bow on a 61-46 triumph over the five time Canadian national champions.
Doornekamp led all scorers with 30 points. Cunningham paced a balanced Villanova attack with 13 points, including 5-of-7 at the line. Reynolds added 12 points, three rebounds and three assists while Clark chipped in with 11 points and seven caroms.
"We really tried to be focused on doing what we do right from the start," said Clark. "The older guys made a point to talk to the young guys and really show that this is what we do as a team."
"The starters wanted to set a tone and I thought we did that," added Reynolds. "If we brought it from the start, we knew it would carry over to the young guys. This is a tradition we have here that has been passed on to us."
Though there were offensive flashes of strong play by the Wildcats, the overall numbers were spotty. Villanova connected on .375 of its field goal attempts on the night and was just 3-of-13 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"Defense is our priority," Reynolds said. "We know that if we are doing the right things on defense, the offense will take care of itself because of the talent we have here."
"In the BIG EAST, defense is so important," Wright noted. "So our staff is very happy to open up with this kind of effort against a quality opponent on its home floor."
NOVA NOTES: Villanova's three freshmen all debuted in the contest. Corey Fisher registered an impressive blocked shot not long after entering the game in the first half and finished the night with seven points, one assist and one steal in 27 minutes. Malcolm Grant gave the club a lift with five points in 10 minutes. Corey Stokes picked up two first half fouls after checking into the game and was limited to five minutes of action without a point...
The Wildcats face a unique doubleheader on Sunday. Villanova meets Queens in another game at the Raven's Nest at noon and then will challenge the Ottawa Gee Gee's at 7 p.m. on its home court.
Like most of his teammates, that kind of grind is not unknown to Reynolds. He often played multiple games in one day on the AAU circuit.
"The big thing between now and tomorrow is to lay up and stay off your feet," he says. "We have no excuses. We want to come out and play just as hard on Sunday as we did tonight."
The tentative plan for the coaching staff is to rely more heavily on the younger members of the roster in Sunday afternoon's game. It is expected that most of the roster will see ample action with the two games...
Junior forward Frank Tchuisi traveled with the team here but is not expected to play this weekend due to a right wrist injury. It is anticipated he will be available in time for the start of practice in October...
Clark on his health following arthroscopic surgery to alleviate pain in his right knee: "I feel a whole lot better than I did last year. I am ready to get after it."