MBB: ‘Nova falls to .500 in Big East



Kyle Scudilla

Rutgers’ Louis Brown Athletic Center, also known as “the RAC,” is notorious for its hot and uncomfortable conditions, making it one of the toughest places in the Big East to play, even when its Scarlet Knights are a below-average squad.

The Villanova Wildcats (13-4, 3-3 Big East) became the latest team to leave New Brunswick feeling suffocated, wondering what went wrong after a 80-68 loss to Rutgers (9-11, 1-6 Big East) that marked the Scarlet Knights’ first conference win of the season.

A scoreless drought that stretched from the 16:12 mark of the second half until there was 6:29 remaining on the clock rendered another furious come-from-behind effort by Malcolm Grant useless.

The Wildcats went 0-for-8 from the field during a field goal drought that lasted close to 12-and-a-half minutes. Rutgers went on a 16-3 run during that time to create what seemed like an insurmountable lead. Anthony Farmer and Mike Coburn each scored 23 points to lead the way for the Scarlet Knights, who entered the game shooting a conference-worst 40 percent from the field. The performances both came as pleasant surprises for the Knights, who shot a much-improved 50 percent (24-for-48) from the field. Farmer and Coburn began the game averaging just 10.4 and 6.3 points per game, respectively.

Before all was said and done, Grant had a tremendous individual effort to keep ‘Nova’s pulse beating in the closing minutes of the game. The freshman, who is often referred to as “a microwave” by Head Coach Jay Wright, proved his ability to create instant offense once again, scoring 17 straight points for the Wildcats down the stretch. Grant hit four 3-pointers in a span of about two minutes, hit his first five attempts from beyond the arc and finished with a team-high 23 points.

Unfortunately for ‘Nova, Grant was the lone bright spot in the second half for the ‘Cats on a night where they shot just 36.7 percent (22-for-60). Corey Stokes finished with a season-high nine points, thanks to three first-half 3-pointers. After being named Big East Player of the Week, Scottie Reynolds struggled from the field. Though the sophomore finished with 16 points, he made just five of his 19 field goal attempts. Dante Cunningham finished with nine points before fouling out, but his fellow frontcourt mates were shut down. Shane Clark and Antonio Peña combined to go 0-for-8 from the field and scored just two points.

Rutgers began the game on a torrid pace, opening on a 16-2 run in the first five minutes of the game. Farmer and Coburn combined to score the game’s first 13 points, and the Scarlet Knights hit seven of their first eight shots from the field. The ‘Cats rallied behind Reynolds’ 10 first-half points and Stokes’ nine. Villanova got to within eight points but trailed once again at the half, continuing an alarming trend in Big East play. The ‘Cats have been outscored by 36 points combined in the first halves of their first six Big East games.

The Wildcats had entered the game with some momentum after a come-from-behind win over DePaul and a double-digit win at Syracuse last week. The two conference wins and a series of losses by other nationally ranked teams elevated Villanova to No. 18 in both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls.

Villanova will return to action on Saturday afternoon when it takes on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Wachovia Center in what will be a pivotal game for the up-and-down Wildcats.