Dec. 30, 2000
Prior to the introduction of the starting lineups Thursday evening at Stegeman Coliseum, the public address system blared the tune "Who Let the Dogs Out?"
In the wake of a three game losing streak against the nation's toughest schedule, Georgia offered an inspired effort that Villanova was unable to match. The result was the Wildcats' second loss of the season and first in the month of December.
"Our rebounding and defense were very disappointing," said Wildcats head coach Steve Lappas.
Georgia jumped on the Wildcats early, building a 10 point advantage in the first five minutes. Villanova fought back and gained the lead shortly before halftime. An Adrian Jones 3-point field goal for the Bulldogs tied the game at 40 heading into intermission.
Villanova, however, could not capitalize on its strong finish to the half. Georgia seized control at the start of the second half and withstood several Wildcat charges to earn the 11-point win.
"We beat a very, very good basketball team tonight," said Georgia head coach Jim Harrick. "They will be in the tournament."
No one did more to keep Villanova in the contest in the game's opening minutes than Aaron Matthews.
The sophomore from Seaford, Del., scored eight early points at a time when the Wildcats were struggling to gain the kind of offensive flow that has been their trademark through the early portion of the 2000-2001 campaign.
Matthews completed the night with 12 points on six-of-eight shooting from the field. On the year he is now connecting on .587 percent of his field goal attempts. He is one of three Wildcat starters - Michael Bradley and Brooks Sales are the others - converting more than 50 percent of his field goal attempts.
In addition, Matthews chipped in with five rebounds in his 26 minutes along with a pair of assists.
What's more, Matthews spent some of those minutes chasing the elusive D.A. Layne at the defensive end of the court.
For the first time in his Villanova career (nine games), Michael Bradley shot less than 50 percent from the floor for a game. The junior from Worcester, Mass., connected on 8-of-17 (.471) of his attempts from the field against the Bulldogs.
Even on such a night, however, Bradley still delivered 19 points and nine rebounds in 30 minutes.
It's called productivity and the transfer from the University of Kentucky has consistently delivered it since joining the lineup this season. Bradley is shooting .704 from the floor and leads the Wildcats in scoring (20.8 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg).
In only one game this season - a 69-62 win over Temple on Dec. 5 - has Bradley not led the `Cats in scoring.
Alas, even standouts have to let us know they are human. Bradley hit just two-of-nine from the free throw stripe against the Bulldogs (he was incorrectly credited with a made free throw in the original boxscore that would have made him 3-of-9. But a review of the tape indicated a miss charged to Gary Buchanan belonged instead to Bradley.)
On the year, Bradley's free throw percentage has slipped to a season low .580 after a strong start that saw his numbers stand above 70 percent from the line until the last two weeks.
Another statistic to be aware of is that Bradley is averaging 2.2 blocked shots per game, tops on the club. Twice this season he has been voted Big East Player of the Week and once was named Philadelphia Big Five Player of the Week.
The Wildcats' slump on the glass continued at Georgia on Thursday. The Bulldogs outrebounded Villanova 49-36. In its last three contests, VU has been outrebounded 123-102. That is an average rebounding deficit of seven (41 for the opposition, 34 for the Wildcats).
Prior to the La Salle contest, Villanova was outrebounding its opponents by nearly ten caroms a game. Presently, the Wildcats are besting their opponents on the season by a 36.1-32 margin.
Although his night won't be recalled as one of the best of his college career - he converted only two of 10 field goal attempts - Gary Buchanan did continue his accuracy at the free throw line. His two free throws extended his current streak to 17 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 25-of-26 from the stripe (.962). In 41 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 94-of-100 (.940) from the line entering tonight's contest.
Bryant Comes Alive
Over the course of the past five games freshman guard Reggie Bryant has emerged as a consistent offensive threat. At Georgia he came off the bench to post career highs in points (17), free throws (eight) and minutes played (27).
"He's just a good player," said Lappas.
The native of Baltimore, who spent last winter at St. Thomas More prep school in Connecticut, has averaged 11.4 ppg since the Dec. 5 victory over Temple.
Bryant is also following the lead of his fellow St. Thomas More product, Buchanan at the free throw line. He too has only missed one shot from the line this season and carries a .947 percentage into the game this evening.
75 is Significant
Though the contest at Georgia proved that it is not a guarantee, the ledger shows that when Villanova has reached 75 points in the last nine years, its odds of success are great.
Under Steve Lappas, the Wildcats are 105-20 (.840) when they score 75 points or more in a game. Last year, Villanova was 8-1 in such contests and improved is now 6-2 (.667) in that department this season.
Villanova will be returning to the spotlight of national television in the coming weeks. The Wildcats are assured of making at least nine appearances on national networks. The breakdown is as follows:
Nov. 17: Duke 98, Villanova 85 (ESPN)
Jan. 6: at Virginia Tech (ESPN)
Jan. 13: at UCLA (CBS)
Jan. 24: at Connecticut (ESPN)
Feb. 12: at Georgetown (ESPN2)
Feb. 17: Miami (ESPN)
Feb. 20: at West Virginia (ESPN2)
Feb. 25: St. John's (ABC) Feb. 28: Seton Hall (ESPN)