Hoops Mania Recap

Andrew Gordon

The men’s basketball team kicked off its season at Hoops Mania on Friday night in front of an enthusiastic, packed crowd at the Pavilion.

The night began by acknowledging the success of the Wildcat football team, who later that weekend fought to a 36-7 Homecoming victory over Rhode Island. The women’s basketball team, who will look to improve on its 2008-’09 campaign that ended with an NCAA tournament berth, was also introduced.

The celebration continued as the throng of spectators paid tribute to each of the Villanova Final Four teams. Paul Nugent, a member of the 1939 Wildcat team, the first ‘Nova team to make it to the Final Four, and of the class of 1941, was in attendance. Members of the 1971 national runner-up team were introduced next, followed by the 1985 national championship team. Former head coaches Steve Lappas and Jack Kraft were also welcomed back to the Pavilion.

Finally, last year’s Final Four squad was greeted with a thunderous ovation from the ‘Nova Nation as 2009 graduates Shane Clark and Frank Tchuisi walked onto the familiar court to help Head Coach Jay Wright present the team with its 2009 Final Four rings. Dante Cunningham could not be in attendance, as he is currently playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, but he sent a video greeting from Oregon,expressing his gratitude. To officially commemorate the 2008-’09 season, Student Body President and Vice President, Dan Gelwicks and Spencer Curtis, helped unveil the Final Four banner that will be suspended from the rafters of the Pavilion forever.

After honoring the past, the Hoops Mania celebration looked to the future of Villanova basketball as the highly touted freshman recruiting class was introduced to the eager crowd, along with the returning members of last year’s squad. An unexpected musical performance was next on the agenda as the ‘Nova hoopsters put on their white sequined gloves and teamed up with the Villanova dance team to perform a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

An impressive dunk contest culminated with the winning dunk by freshman forward Isaiah Armwood in which he jumped over Jay Wright’s shoulders and slammed it down.

An abbreviated Blue vs. White scrimmage saw the white team take an early lead, but a surge from the blue squad evened things up. The game ended in a 30-29 victory for the blue team, thanks to a game-winning basket from senior Scottie Reynolds.

The homecoming festivities continued Saturday evening as the team reconvened for a full Blue vs. White scrimmage in the Pavilion. The blue squad narrowly defeated the white by a score of 71-68. The rainy weather outside was appropriate for the scrimmage, as both teams seemed to make it rain from beyond the arc, with seven different players making 3-pointers in the first half alone.

The white squad, consisting of Armwood, junior Corey Fisher, freshman Dominic Cheek, junior Corey Stokes, freshman Mouphtaou Yarou and senior Russell Wooten took an early 5-0 lead over the blue team. The blue team, led by Reynolds, was composed of freshman Maalik Wayns, senior Jason Colenda, redshirt freshman Maurice Sutton, redshirt junior Antonio Peña and sophomore Taylor King.

The blue team fought back from the early deficit as Reynolds cut through the lane for a layup. Highlights from the first half included multiple triples from King, Reynolds, Cheek, Wayns and Stokes, along with a big two-handed dunk from Peña and physical play under the boards from Yarou and Sutton.

Stokes finished 7-11 from downtown, tallying 23 points on the day, including a stretch of 3-pointers on three straight possessions that finished with a shot from five feet beyond the arc. Tough defense has always been a staple of Villanova basketball and was evident throughout the scrimmage with Wayns and Wooten both taking charges towards the end of the first half.

The second half was close with endless lead changes. Wayns displayed keen court vision, finding King cutting backdoor on multiple occasions. Fellow guard Reynolds picked up where he left off last season and piloted the offensive attack, finishing with 26 points. New Wildcat Cheek displayed great athleticism throughout the game, showing versatility as he hit 3’s, brought the ball up on certain occasions and was able to drive to the hoop and score in the paint.

As regulation ended in a tie, the two Villanova teams played a two-minute overtime to decide the winner. Reynolds took over, hitting a 3-pointer for the initial basket of the overtime session and closed out the game with two clutch free throws to extend the blue team’s lead to three points. A desperate 3-point attempt by Stokes was unsuccessful for the white squad. King ended the day with 18 points and Peña led all rebounders with ten boards.