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Looking Ahead to Monday's Meeting With St. Joseph's

 

 

Dec. 8, 2000

Longtime Pavilion observers rated the noise level as comparable to only a handful of games in the building's 15 year history. Indeed, the atmosphere was electric last Tuesday night as the Wildcats defeated Temple 69-62 in the Big Five opener.

The Wildcats came out firing in the first half behind guards Jermaine Medley and Gary Buchanan. The duo combined for eight first half 3-pointers as the Wildcats built a 35-25 edge at intermission.

Interestingly, Villanova's leading scorer entering the contest, junior center Michael Bradley did not score in the first half and took only one shot.

Temple rallied behind guard Lynn Greer and forward Alex Wesby in the second half. With under six minutes to go, the Owls took their first lead, 59-56.

Enter Medley.

The senior from Wilmington drained a long-range three to tie the game at 59. Bradley then scored on a rebound dunk of a Brooks Sales miss and the `Cats never looked back.

Final score: Villanova 69, Temple 62.

"It was a real joy to be out there," said Bradley. "The crowd was like a sixth man for us at times. It was a real big plus for us. Inner city games are tough no matter where you are. Temple's a great team and we just played a good game."

Temple entered the game ranked No. 23 in the country. This was Villanova's first win over a ranked team since Dec. 30, 1999, when it downed then No. 19 Wake Forest in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu.

Medley Was Steady

From the moment the name Temple appeared on the schedule, Steve Lappas knew that Jermaine Medley would play an important role on the night of Dec. 5. Perimeter shooting is always at a premium against the Owls matchup zone.

"I told our assistants going into the game that I thought we needed to make nine threes if we were going to get a win," said Steve Lappas. "We had nine at halftime and were only up 10. I was a little worried but Jermaine and Gary really came through for us."

Medley set the tone for the night when, on the game's first possession, he drilled a triple. Before the night was over the 6-0 senior had matched his career high in points (18) and 3-point field goals (six).

"Jermaine," said Lappas, "was tremendous. Not only because of the way he shot the ball but because of how he ran our offense. He had four assists and no turnovers and that's great for us."

Medley began the year in a bit of a shooting slump. However, he has come alive offensively in the last two games with a total of 30 points on 11-of-22 shooting (.500) from the field.

"I've told Jermaine that, in a lot of ways, he is the key to our team," said Lappas. "He is our only senior and we need him to run the offense for us."

In addition to his game-tying jumper when Villanova seemed to be reeling, Medley contributed another signature moment when he outran former Oak Hill Academy teammate Kevin Lyde for a loose ball with just over a minute left. Rather than force a field goal attempt, Medley dribbled towards the corner and found Buchanan, who then fed Bradley. Bradley's touch pass resulted in a thundering Sales' dunk that gave Villanova a 67-59 lead with 1:08 to go.

Medley now boasts an assist-to-turnover ratio of exactly 2:1 (24 assists, 12 turnovers). And six of those miscues came against the No. 1 team in the country, Duke, on its home floor.

The Orchestrator

To those who merely read the boxscore from Tuesday night's game, the effort of Michael Bradley may have appeared rather ordinary. His point total (10) was the lowest of his five game Villanova career and marked the first time he failed to reach the 20-point plateau. By night's end, he had taken only four shots.

If ever the stat sheet was misleading, though, it was on Tuesday night.

"They played extremely well and it was orchestrated very well by this kid Bradley," said Temple coach John Chaney. "He's certainly a player. It all came from his hand. He was the guy who moved the ball diagonally. He moved the ball across, when we doubled him he would hold the ball up and then find somebody open. He had even time, which meant we were a little bit soft. He was like a playmaker inside. I think that club can be a great ballclub if they keep the ball in his hands.

"He's a good thinker. He takes great shots. He's not taking bad shots. He's a well-disciplined player. The kid's a great player. He has good hands, too, great hands. He sees the floor extremely well so you can say he's a point-center."

Chaney is not the first coach to have sung Bradley's praises to this point.

"Bradley is a very good player," said Columbia's Armond Hill. "He is a terrific passer and is very skilled offensively."

"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."

One department in which Bradley struggled earlier in his college career at the University of Kentucky was at the free throw line. Entering this season he was a career .469 free throw shooter after dipping to a .455 percentage as a sophomore at Kentucky in 1998-99.

So far, he has been much more proficient at Villanova. Bradley is 20-26 at the line (.769) and was 4-of-4 in the win over Temple. For his career Bradley is now at .515 from the line.

From the field Bradley continues to be remarkably on target. He is 42-of-55 from the field (.764), tops in the Big East and the nation.

As a team Villanova is connecting on .566 percent of its attempts, tops in the Big East.

Caring To Share

Some have labeled this the best passing team of the Steve Lappas era and the head coach isn't going to argue the point.

"We've had some good passing teams here, no doubt," he said. "But this one has been tremendous in that area in the early going."

Villanova is averaging 20.2 assists per game and that was third in the Big East Conference entering play this weekend. Only Seton Hall and Notre Dame have done better and those schools have only three more total assists than do the `Cats.

Last year, the Wildcats averaged 15.6 assists per game.

G Town

Sophomore guard Gary Buchanan has continued his steady progress in the backcourt alongside Medley.

Entering the fray against St. Joseph's Buchanan is second on the Wildcats in scoring with 15.8 ppg. He is averaging 32.8 minutes per outing and is connecting on .510 of his attempts from the field. Plus, he is at a percentage of .412 on attempts from beyond the 3-point line.

Last year Buchanan played one of his finest games against tonight's foe, St. Joseph's. He scored 24 points and added five assists in 33 minutes as the Wildcats held off the Hawks at the Pavilion.

Sales Figures

It often gets lost in the praise for Bradley and Buchanan but the steady play of junior forward Brooks Sales has been one of the keys to Villanova's clean getaway this year.

"Brooks has done a very good job for us," said Lappas.

The junior from Bloomfield, Conn., has been assigned the task of guarding the opponent's top interior player since joining the starting lineup midway through his freshman season in 1998-99. Now, he has added a steady offensive presence to the equation. Sales has reached double figures in every one of Villanova's five games and helped the Wildcats to a strong 43-29 rebounding edge on Tuesday against Temple.

Tuesday's 10-rebound effort marked the 12th time in Sales' 70-game Villanova career that he has reached double figures in that category.

"We said before this game that rebounding would be a key and the guys did a great job of handling that, especially Brooks and Mike," said Lappas.


 

 

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