Coming off a big loss to Syracuse last Saturday, the Villanova Wildcats righted the ship with a big win over Bucknell at the Pavilion this past Tuesday. The ‘Cats beat-up on the weaker team from the Patriot League, grabbing a lead seven minutes into the game and never looking back, en route to a 89-51 win.
The non-conference battle, which took place right in the middle of ‘Nova’s Big East season, was a nice break from conference play for the ‘Cats. However, Bucknell coming into the game was not exactly a guaranteed victory. The Bison had already grabbed 17 wins on the season and had already gone on the road and beaten Pittsburgh and St. Joe’s.
The 89 points tied the ‘Cats third highest scoring total of the season and the 38-point victory was the largest of the season. However, where ‘Nova really got it done was on the defensive side of the ball. The ‘Cats’ defense really stepped up big in the second half. After holding the Bison to 46 percent shooting in the first half, the ‘Cats put the clamps on as the stifled the Bison forced them into tough shots and the Bison only hit 30 percent from the floor. The ‘Cats out rebounded the Bison 37-23, and forced 13 turnovers, blocked eight shots and had seven steals.
The offense smoothed out their problems from the Syracuse game and got back on track. Allan Ray went for 23, while Curtis Sumpter and Mike Nardi went for 14 each.
Villanova, which struggled from the free-throw line on Saturday, was quick to correct the problem, as they hit 16 out of 17 free-throws.
The anticipation for the game between the seventh ranked Syracuse Orange and the No. 25 ranked Villanova Wildcats started to bubble up last week. Many fans (writer included) thought this would be the statement game for Villanova and that the ‘Cats would win and move into the top 20. However, the game did not live up to the hype, and Hakim Warrick, Gerry McNamara and the rest of Syracuse Orange left the Wachovia Center with a 15-point victory, 90-75.
Warrick scored a game-and- career high 32 and came on strong in the second half scoring 19 points to help to seal the victory.
The Wildcats made a couple runs in the second half, cutting a lead that had at one point swelled into the mid twenties, down to 11. However, each time Syracuse had an answer, and it was usually either McNamara or Warrick.
McNamara, a Scranton native, had a huge fan base make the trip down to the WAC, turning what was suppose to be a Villanova home game into a Syracuse home game, as the arena was filled with orange, mostly in the rafters. McNamara did not disappoint as he poured in 18 points and dished out seven assists.
However, Warrick was the star. Warrick, who is from Wynnewood, five minutes away from Villanova Campus, was unstoppable down low, as he continued to grab rebounds and would either lay it in or slam the ball home. Warrick had 12 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
Villanova struggled for most of the game and it was evident at the free-throw line, where the ‘Cats couldn’t convert. Villanova shot 52 percent as a team from the free-throw line, missing 12 of 25 shots. The bad free-throw shooting also seemed to infect the ‘Cat’s shooting from the field, as they shot only 30 percent in the first half.
The ‘Cats host No. 17 ranked Pittsburgh this Sunday at the Pavilion. For more on the game turn to page 29.