‘Cats tear up court in season opener

James Evans

The men’s basketball team’s long wait for their season to begin finally ended last Tuesday when they hosted University of Maryland Baltimore County at the Pavilion. Even though most of the student body was not here because of Thanksgiving break, the Wildcats were able to put on a show and vanquished the Retrievers 66-41.

Junior Allan Ray led the team with 23 points, 17 of which he scored in the first half. Ray connected on five of his seven attempts from behind the three-point line and grabbed six boards.

Ray, because of his solid performance, was named co-Big 5 player of the week, along with Mark Zoller from the University of Pennsylvania.

Villanova scored the first 10 points of the game on dunks by Randy Foye and Curtis Sumpter and two three-pointers from Ray. Foye, who was 4-for-7 from behind the arc, was second on the team in scoring with 16 points, while Sumpter poured in 14 of his own. Foye and Sumpter also cleaned up on the glass as both grabbed five and six rebounds, respectively.

The Wildcats’ offense, though impressive at times, was nothing compared to their defense, which was tenacious. They had nine blocks and six steals and held the Retrievers to only 16 points in the first half.

“We had a very consistent defensive effort, which is something we have got to establish,” head coach Jay Wright said. “To do well in the Big East you have to be able to cover up some poor offensive possessions with some good defensive possessions. That’s what we did tonight.”

The ‘Cats led 20-11 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half when they sealed the victory, by going on a 15-0 run, as the Retrievers were never able to get the deficit below 20 points.

Marcus Austin started the run by hitting two free throws, while Foye hit three three-pointers during the run to lead the ‘Cats.

Sophomore guard Mike Nardi was instrumental in it, as well; he had five of his game high 10 assists.

Austin, who came off the bench, played solid and gave the ‘Cats a spark. In his 14 minutes he ended up grabbing six boards, five points and had three blocks.

“There was a sequence in the first half where our starters were doing a good job but they got a little tired,” Wright said. “Marcus came in and really pumped us up defensively. He got some rebounds and some deflections and wound up being our leading rebounder in 14 minutes. That’s a pretty good effort.”

The Wildcats, who scored 41 points in the first half, trailed off somewhat in the second half, only scoring 25. However, they kept the lead hovering around 20 points for the entire half. Coach Wright pointed out that most of the teams energy was used on the defensive side of the ball, but said he was satisfied with the outcome.

“We got a little sloppy offensively in the second half. There was a stretch [where] we were stuck on 66 for a long time, but that’s because we had expended so much energy defensively. I’ll take that for right now. You burn a lot of energy in the first game and that happened to us.

“Overall I was pleased with the effort for the first game, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” Wright added.

The Wildcats will take part in the Big 5 Classic this Saturday when they take on the Temple Owls at the Palestra in Philadelphia. The game begins at 3:30 p.m., but is preceded by the La Salle versus UPenn game, which starts at 1 p.m.