No. 22 Wildcats roar on

Joe Groglio

All successful teams share a common trait – the ability to come back strong after a setback. After the Villanova Wildcats men’s basketball team suffered a tough loss to UConn last week, they roared back to win their next two games in decisive fashion.

As the team continues to stockpile wins, it is evident that things are starting to come full circle for this talented bunch.

First up for the ‘Cats was a Saturday night showdown with Providence, a talented squad that has suffered through an extremely disappointing season thus far. This game would just be another disappointment, as Villanova dominated the game almost from start to finish.

Despite not playing their best offensively, the Wildcats still were up by 11 at the half and won by a score of 89-81, making the game sound much closer than it actually was.

The one bright spot for PC was senior All-American hopeful Ryan Gomes, who lit it up with 32 points. But the ‘Cats stingy defense kept the rest of the team in check, and limited the big baskets even for Gomes.

On offense, three players scored over 19 points, led by Curtis Sumpter with 24. Randy Foye and Allan Ray continued to be a dynamic duo in the backcourt, scoring 19 and 20, respectively. Mike Nardi pitched in ten points to go along with his great ball handling and solid defense, while Kyle Lowry continued to be a major factor with his penetrating ability. Jason Fraser was limited to five minutes, but Marcus Austin picked up the slack for him with five points and four rebounds.

“I was proud of the way we came out and gutted it out,” Coach Jay Wright said. “Providence was a hungry team with nothing to lose, and we did a good job not overlooking them.”

Next up for Villanova was Saint Joseph’s in a battle at the Palestra that has become known as “The Holy War.” Sporting a No. 22 ranking in the latest AP poll, the ‘Cats looked to improve their status with another key win.

St. Joe’s has also been through a down season, struggling to replace the loss of Delonte West and Jameer Nelson to the NBA. Regardless, this game had both sides extremely fired up, and the fans were as loud as ever in the sold out Palestra.

Early on it seemed as if this would be a blowout, as ‘Nova roared to a nine point lead at halftime due to timely scoring and incredible defense. St Joseph’s looked helpless against the deadly Villanova full court press, unable to get the ball to half court several times.

In the second half Villanova’s lead swelled as big as 21, until Pat Carroll began to creep his team back into the game.

Despite a rally that brought St. Joe’s within four points, the Wildcats turned on their press once more, and took advantage of their overwhelming advantage in the post and in transition.

Fraser played one of his best games of the year, with 14 points and 14 rebounds while still sporting a wrapped left hand. Sumpter and Ray continued to be solid, with Sumpter scoring 15 along with seven rebounds and Ray dropping 23 and dishing out five assists.

Foye also had a solid game, with 13 points of his own and eight rebounds. Nardi added nine, as Austin and Kyle Lowry continued to give solid efforts off of the bench.

The Wildcats host Syracuse at the Wachovia Center tomorrow in front of a sellout crowd.

With the way the team is playing, with the starters clicking and the bench providing help, one would have to be a fool to not give them a chance to win. Games like this hold the thing young men play college basketball for: the chance to be on top.

If the ‘Cats can win this game, then they will for sure be closer to the top of the Big East and even the nation.