MBB: Sub-par shooting enough to sink Navy



Kyle Scudilla

It wasn’t pretty, but true contenders in college basketball have to find ways to win the games in which they don’t look their best.

That’s exactly what the Wildcat men (4-1) did in their Pavilion debut against the Navy Midshipmen (3-1) in a hard-fought 70-61 victory on Saturday night. The ‘Cats finally returned home after playing their first four games on the road, including two wins and a loss in the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam that resulted in a third-place finish in the tournament. Villanova struggled through a sub-par shooting night, including 40 percent from the field and less than 66 percent from the free-throw line. Still, it was the team’s determination to get to the line, with 31 attempts to Navy’s nine attempts, that was a crucial factor in deciding the victory.

Despite the team’s shooting woes, senior guard Mike Nardi hit seven of his 11 shots, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range, for a season-high 20 points. He led all Villanova scorers, dished out a team-high five assists and chipped in with five rebounds.

Sophomore Dante Cunningham was a force on the glass for Villanova, collecting a team-high 10 rebounds to go along with his nine points. The Wildcats won the rebounding contest 45-30.

Villanova got off to a good start, using an 11-0 run in the latter part of the first half to propel the team to a 33-19 lead at halftime. The Wildcats scored 10 points off Navy turnovers and outscored the Midshipmen in the paint 14-2.

Navy came out of the half scoring early and often, using an 11-3 run to get back in the game. A couple of 3-pointers by junior guard Greg Sprink led the Navy charge in the second half. The Midshipmen cut the deficit to within two points midway through the second half on multiple occasions but never got any closer throughout the game. A flurry of free throws by ‘Nova’s starters and a big 3-pointer by Nardi with 4:11 remaining in the half helped to seal the victory for the Wildcats, effectively stifling every comeback attempt Navy had in the second half.

Head Coach Jay Wright spoke highly of his team’s ability to step up and make plays at the right time to quell Navy’s second-half attempts at grabbing the lead.

“We have good leadership on this team … at times during their runs, Mike and Dante just went out and made plays for us,” Wright said at the team’s post-game press conference.

Star forward Curtis Sumpter was just 3-for-9 from the field but sunk nine free throws to finish with 16 points and eight rebounds. Fellow forward Will Sheridan helped the frontline’s cause with nine points and a season-high nine boards.

Freshman Scottie Reynolds struggled from the field in his first regular-season game in front of a home crowd, hitting just one of his seven shot attempts, but was perfect from the free-throw line, finishing with seven points.

Sprink finished with a game-high 22 points for the Midshipmen, going 6-for-11 from downtown. Starting guard Kaleo Kina pitched in with a little of everything for Navy, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and four assists.

Navy held the edge in turnovers 14-11 and outscored Villanova in the paint 20-10 in the second half, but poor shooting overall proved to be the team’s Achilles’ heel. The Midshipmen shot just 37.7 percent for the game and missed on five of their nine free throw attempts.

Villanova returned home for the season opener after a long road trip in the previous weeks that began in West Palm Beach, Fla., followed by a trip to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam. The ‘Cats won their opening-round game against the College of Charleston, but fell in a back-and-forth contest against Xavier. Settling for a consolation game in their final match up of the tourney, the Wildcats pummeled the Iowa Hawkeyes 89-60.

Villanova will wrap up its week with two more road games, first traveling to New York to take on Stony Brook tonight, then playing its first Big Five game of the year against the Penn Quakers at Philadelphia’s famous Palestra.