Dec. 4, 2000
Steve Lappas said that his goal entering play on Saturday night was simple.
"We are just trying to be more solid as a team every time out," said the ninth year Villanova head coach. "It's easy to forget that we are still a very young team. Jermaine Medley is our only senior who plays and we have eight underclassmen on the roster.
"We're young. Every game and every practice we are teaching guys."
Consider the 80-64 triumph another lesson learned. The Wildcats patiently probed a Lions squad that prefers to use most of its allotted time on the 30-second clock and loves the backdoor cuts.
"We wanted our guys to defend for the full 30 seconds and I think, for the most part, we did that," Lappas said.
Villanova placed four athletes in double figures and went over the 80-point plateau for the fourth time in as many outings this season. Last season the `Cats eclipsed the 80-point plateau a total of five times and only once before the first of the year.
"That's a very good basketball team," said Columbia head coach Armond Hill.
Michael's Made An Impact
This encounter with Temple marks Michael Bradley's fifth game in a Villanova uniform.
His consistency and contributions through the first four have been terrific.
On Saturday evening Bradley was 7-of-11 from the field. On the year he is now 39-of-51, including 3-of-3 on 3-point field goal attempts.
Not only has Bradley scored often, he has produced at key moments.
Take Saturday evening, for instance.
After falling behind 11-3 in the game's first four minutes, Columbia had nicely gathered itself over the next 10 minutes. A Jaime Irvine 3-point field goal cut the margin to 23-15 at the 7:55 mark.
Enter the man from Worcester.
In the course of the next two minutes, Bradley was fouled and made a pair of free throws. Then he came down the court as the trailer on a Wildcat fast break, took a feed from Medley and nailed a 3-point field goal from the top of the key.
Just like that, Villanova led 32-15.
In the second half, Columbia cut the lead to 47-37 on a Victor Munoz layup at the 13:38 mark. Bradley then made a short basket inside and came down the floor on the next possession and dropped in another 3-point field goal.
Villanova led 52-37 and was never challenged the rest of the evening.
"Bradley is a very good player," said Columbia's Hill. "He is a terrific passer and is very skilled offensively."
Other coaches who have faced the native of Worcester, Mass., in the early going concur.
"When you let Bradley put it down, his footwork is so good, he's like a Kevin McHale," said Towson's Jaskulski following a 25-point, eight rebound Bradley effort on Sunday evening. "He's going to create scoring opportunities for himself."
For his part, Bradley is just happy to be on the floor again on game night, after sitting out the 1999-2000 campaign as a transfer from the University of Kentucky.
"It's good to be back out there again," he said. "My teammates are great to play with. They are just finding me. All I have to do is just dunk it or lay it in. If I can't finish off those, then there is a problem. It's been great."
Experience has benefitted Bradley as well.
"You have to remember," Lappas stated, "he is a junior now with a lot of basketball under his belt. That kind of thing really helps a player."
Tonight presents a new challenge for Bradley as Temple's bruising Kevin Lyde and Ron Rollerson stand in his way. In last year's 69-66 Temple victory at the then Forum at the Apollo, the Owls held Villanova's inside trio of Malik Allen, Brooks Sales and Ricky Wright to 16 points. That group contributed an average of 28 ppg to VU's attack in 1999-2000.
Steady at the Helm Jermaine Medley enjoyed his most complete performance of the early season on Saturday against Columbia. The senior from Wilmington, Del., scored 12 points and grabbed four rebounds. But his most important line may have been the assist to turnover-ratio, where Medley was credited with six assists and just one turnover.
"I thought Jermaine was tremendous," said Lappas. "He gave us exactly what we needed."
Medley ignited the Wildcats with two 3-point field goals and one short jumper in the first four minutes to push Villanova to an 11-3 edge.
"The coaches put together an edit (of videotape) of the shots I had taken," said Medley. "That helped me. I just tried to take the shots when they were there.
"I was just trying to be a point guard and run the show."
Medley upped his scoring average to 9.3 ppg and he leads the `Cats in assists with 20 (5.0 apg).
With 240 career assists, Medley is now in 23rd place in school history in that category. Up next is former teammate Howard Brown, who closed his career in 1999 with 248 assists to his credit.
Sharing the basketball has been a bedrock of an offense that has been prolific entering tonight's engagement with Temple's tenacious matchup zone defense.
Villanova had its lowest assist total of the year against Columbia with 17. On the season it already has 86 (21.5 per game) assists to 61 for the opposition (15.3).
Buchanan's On Track
Perhaps the most intriguing line on sophomore guard Gary Buchanan is his field goal percentage: .571.
Not bad when you consider that Buchanan is a wing player who spends the bulk of his time on the perimeter.
After earning a spot on the Big East All-Rookie Team in 1999-2000, Buchanan has been steadily effective through four games of the new season. He averages 15.5 ppg and is connecting on .409 percent of his 3-point field goal attempts.
Were it not for Bradley, Buchanan might be the talk of the town.
Buchanan has also excelled at the free throw line. He has missed only one attempt at the line this year (at Duke on Nov. 17) and is 13-of-14 from the stripe (.929), tops in the Big East Conference.
In his career at Villanova Buchanan is 82-of-88 (.932) at the free throw line. As a freshman he had a stretch of 45 consecutive free throws made which ran from Dec. 11 to Feb. 26. That established a new school record.
Brooks Sales figures to play a pivotal role in tonight's contest. The junior forward is third on the club in scoring at 14.8 ppg, a jump from the 8.6 ppg he averaged as a sophomore last winter.
Sales has also done some terrific work at the free throw line. Against Columbia the native of Bloomfield, Conn., was six-of-seven from the line to raise his season free throw percentage to .826. Sales finished with a .648 percentage at the stripe last winter.
Towson's Mike Jaskulski favorably compared the duo of Sales and Bradley to an earlier tandem in the Lappas era.
"They are the best interior tandem Villanova has had since (Jason) Lawson and (Chuck) Kornegay were here," said the Towson coach.
"This is, probably, the best inside game we've had," Lappas stated. "Offensively, it certainly is. We're deeper now.
"Together, they've really been a force. Now we have some things going that we've never had going before.
"Of course, Jason and Chuck were great at the defensive end. I'd take any of these four guys on my team."
75 is the Number
Saturday's contest against No. 1 ranked Duke notwithstanding, it is normally a chore to score large numbers against Temple's rugged defense. Meanwhile, history says that if Villanova can reach 75 points on any night, it is in good shape.
Under Steve Lappas, the Wildcats are 102-19 (.843) when they score 75 points or more in a game. Last year, Villanova was 8-1 in such contests, including 4-0 in the month of February as the club made its charge toward the postseason.
Villanova is 3-1 in such outings this year.