‘Cats kick off season strongly

Joe Groglio

Often in sports you can get an idea of how the season will evolve by the results of the opening game. This past Sunday night at the Pavilion, you could see it was the start of something special.

A near sellout crowd for an exhibition game, where in past years it was hard to get people to go to any early season contests. A familiar squad on the floor, the men’s basketball team returns every starter from last year minus an injured Curtis Sumpter. And features four talented freshmen. On Sunday night, the rookies showed that they were capable of providing solid depth for the upperclassmen and at times, of even taking over games. Although it was only an exhibition, you truly could feel the excitement in the air from both the fans and the team.

It’s hard to analyze a game like this, as the West Chester University Golden Rams had little to no chance of even considering staying in the game against the powerful Wildcats. However, there was denying that the ‘Nova faithful were impressed with an 85-45 win.

The perimeter shooting was outstanding. Senior Allan Ray dropped three pointers effortlessly all night on his way to a game-high 22 points. Randy Foye was also able to show off his outside game as a few stroked threes led to his 16 points. The versatile New Jersey native also pulled down four boards. Energetic as ever, sophomore Kyle Lowry drove through the lanes with ease and played superb defense. Mike Nardi also got in on the fun with nine points from behind the arc. Clearly, West Chester’s zone defense wasn’t up to the task of controlling the Villaova shooters.

The big men also got their chance to shine. Junior forward Will Sheridan was dominant in the block, racking up eight points and seven rebounds in the less than 20 minutes he played. A big season from him could easily fill the interior gap left by Sumpter’s injury. Senior Jason Fraser looked a bit rusty early on but came back strong in the second half to pick up 10 points to go along with his five rebounds. Considering Fraser’s past injuries have always forced him to make a late start in the season, the fans welcomed the change of seeing him play earlier this year.

The new guys also held their own. Dante Cunningham received the most playing time of all of the freshmen. Playing with the starters, he looked solid on defense and seemed to be getting more comfortable with his role. Anyone who has seen him dunk the ball knows his offensive game will come around and be there for the season. Bilal Benn also looked good, dishing out four assists and scoring six points, mostly in the second half. Dwayne Anderson and Frank Tchuisi showed great potential. Anderson’s jump shot was unstoppable last Sunday night.

Late in the game Baker Dunleavy was given some extended time. The red shirt junior made good use of it by scoring on a transition lay-up and playing stingy defense. Defense as a whole seemed to be in midseason shape as the ‘Cats held West Chester to only 45 points. Their half court set zone defense and backcourt pressure translated to many steals and forced turnovers.

Overall, the Wildcats looked like a team that is ready to start the much-hyped season. Over the next five months, they will be tested from teams as far away as Texas and Oklahoma and as close as the Big 5 games downtown at The Palestra. Although the outcomes remain uncertain, one thing is for sure: ‘Nova Nation will be there every step of the way.