Dec. 26, 2000
To call this one a game of spurts understates the matter.
Villanova opened Friday's game with Fairleigh Dickinson with a 17-0. In that span the Wildcats forced nine turnovers and appeared ready to cruise into the Christmas break.
Alas, FDU came back strong as the Knights outscored the Wildcats 51-33 to move in front by one with over 12 minutes left.
Villanova kept its cool, though, and then proceeded to score 35 of the game's last 47 points for a comfortable 85-63 win.
"It was probably about as typical an exam game as we've played since I have been here," Villanova head coach Steve Lappas stated. "Probably the worst thing that happpened to us was for us to go up big initially. Then, we really lost our focus."
Yet it was regained and Villanova had its fourth straight victory in which it rallied from a second half deficit. Against Temple, Villanova trailed 59-56 before Jermaine Medley connected on a triple with 5:24 left. St. Joseph's led for most of the second half before a Medley bomb and Michael Bradley basket pushed Villanova in front. It was Medley's pair of three point baskets that lifted Villanova past La Salle in the final minutes, after trailing for most of the second half.
"The truth is, the way we've played in the last five minutes of every game has been nothing short of phenomenal," said Lappas. "If I've got to trade a middle five minutes for the last five minutes, I'll take the great last five minutes."
Villanova improved to 7-1.
On A Roll
Villanova's victory over Fairleigh Dickinson was its sixth in a row following a 98-85 loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 17. That is the school's longest winning streak since the Wildcats began the 1998-99 season by winning six in a row. Included in that batch were three wins in the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alas.
The six game winning streak then ended when Villanova fell at Penn State, 70-53.
The last time Villanova won as many as seven games in a row was in the 1995-96 campaign. The Wildcats defeated North Carolina 76-56 at the Spectrum on Jan. 20, 1996 to spark what became a 10 game winning streak. A 70-59 loss to Connecticut when the Wildcats were without All-American Kerry Kittles ended that run.
"I have a vote in the coaches poll," said Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tom Green. "I voted for Villanova last week and will be doing so again. Steve has a good team.
"Medley and Buchanan are very dangerous. And Bradley is a terrific player, very smart and aware of what's going on around him."
Last Friday night was another night at the office for junior center Michael Bradley. When Villanova needed its most dependable offensive weapon, Bradley was there.
Bradley concluded the night with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor. He also contributed seven rebounds and four blocks. It marked the seventh time in eight outings this year that Bradley led the `Cats in scoring.
The junior transfer from Worcester, Mass., is the only Wildcat with a history here at Stegeman Coliseum. In a visit during the 1998-99 season while at Kentucky, Bradley scored 18 points and was perfect from the field (seven for seven) as those Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs 91-83 in overtime.
Of course, Bradley did not face Georgia last year when the Bulldogs came to the Main Line.
One more note on Bradley: as a collegian the teams he has played on own a record of 69-15 (.821).
"That's the thing about Mike that you really have to appreciate," Lappas said. "These guys love playing with him because he isn't worried about numbers. He just wants to win."
After owning the glass in its first six games, the Wildcats have seen their production drop off lately. Villanova was outrebounded by a smaller Fairleigh Dickinson squad on Friday night 34-33 and have been outrebounded 74-66 in the last two outings.
Villanova's rebounding margin has dropped to a plus 6.3, down from a margin of almost 10 a game two weeks ago.
Yes, Gary Buchanan conceded on Friday night, he had fallen into a trap that has claimed many a young player early in their careers.
"In the last few games prior to this (FDU) one I found myself standing around watching Michael Bradley and waiting for him to do something," Buchanan said.
"This was the first time all year I have felt like I did last year. You have to be moving without the ball all the time so that if Mike gets doubled he can get the ball to you."
Buchanan finished the night with 17 points, tying his season high and also collected four rebounds.
And don't look now, but the smooth one from St. Louis has another free throw streak underway. Buchanan last missed a free throw on Nov. 17 at Duke and has made the last 15 in a row.
Buchanan has a long march before he can challenge his own school record. Last year he converted 45 in a row, from Dec. 11 to Feb. 26.
On the year Buchanan is 23-of-24 from the stripe (.958). In 40 career games as a collegian he has missed exactly six free throws: two vs. Penn State, one vs. Seton Hall, one vs. Pittsburgh, one vs. Delaware and that one at Duke. For his career he is 92-of-98 (.939) from the line entering tonight's contest.
Keep in mind too that Buchanan enjoyed one of his best collegiate performances in Villanova's 78-75 victory over Georgia on Jan. 30, 2000. Buchanan was 8-of-12 from the field and ended the afternoon with 24 points in 26 minutes of action against the Bulldogs.
Bryant's Offered a Lift
As the campaign unfolds, the role of freshman guard Reggie Bryant continues to expand.
Bryant played 16 second half minutes on Friday evening against Fairleigh Dickinson and scored eight points, including the basket that lifted Villanova back into the lead 52-51 near the 12 minute mark of the second half.
"He's just a good player," said Lappas.