Wildcats slain by Scarlet Knights



James Evans

Villanova’s one-game winning streak was short-lived, as the ‘Cats buckled under the pressure and Rutgers was able to sneak away with a 71-68 win.

‘Nova (11-7 overall, 3-3 in the Big East) had a chance to tie, but Randy Foye’s three-pointer as the buzzer sounded, clanged off the rim and secured the victory for the Scarlet Knights (11-6 overall, 3-4 in the Big East).

Allan Ray was standing right next to Foye when he took the shot and had a good look at it.

“It was a good shot, he was open, he elevated good,” Ray said. “I thought it was going in.”

“Randy Foye had a choice to go off a screen from [Curtis] Sumpter and he then had the [Allan] Ray on one side and [Andreas] Bloch on the other,” head coach Jay Wright said. “So he had a choice of shooting it or passing.”

Once again it was the same mistakes that caused the ‘Cats to crumble under the pressure. Up by three, Rutgers Juel Wiggan drove to the lane and scored two of his 10 points. On the ensuing inbounds play Sumpter went to pass the ball in but Wiggan flashed quickly in the passing line and caused Sumpter to hesitate, but his forward momentum caused his foot to cross the line and the ‘Cats gave it away. Even though, they stole the inbounds pass it is those kinds of mental errors that have hurt this team.

“They [turnovers] came at big times and its something that I can’t argue that has plagued this team,” Wright said. “The only thing I know to do to compensate for that is to work on it at practice and emphasis it; and I really think, for this group, it is something we have to play through.”

It was a close game, with both teams swapping baskets and the lead. However, with 2:36 left it seemed as Rutgers had sealed the victory, leading 66-57. ‘Nova fought hard though, and clawed back within three points, 66-63, with the chance to tie, when Randy Foye hoisted up a three.

The ‘Cats have been up and down all season, never able to put together a solid winning streak and if they aren’t able to make a run, it may cost them a chance to make the NCAA tournament come this March.

“Obviously I am not happy about the inconsistency of our play this season,” Wright said. “But all we can do is go back to work and try to work on playing consistently, on offense, on defense, on the road, at home. We just have so many variables in term of what areas we don’t execute, and we just have to keep working.”

The ‘Cats did have a couple of high notes from the game. Sumpter is continuing to become a dominant force offensively for the ‘Cats as he poured in 25 and grabbed seven boards. While Jason Fraser seems to becoming the presence ‘Nova has been looking for down low all season, as he scored 10, collected seven rebounds and blocked four shots, all while logging the most playing time on the team with 36 minutes.

The most important stat for the ‘Cats this season seems to be the three-point field goal percentage, as they have lived and died on them all season long.

And Wednesday night’s game was no different. ‘Nova struggled, shooting a ghastly 15 percent from the three-point line, hitting three of its 20 attempts.

Last Sunday Villanova avoided a late surge by Miami in the waning moments of the game, to hold on for a 76-69 victory.

The ‘Cats were lead by Foye, Sumpter and Ray who tallied 21, 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Foye was the standout though, not only scoring, but dishing out eight assists and collecting seven boards. Trailing 36-35 at halftime the ‘Cats went on a 13-4 run to start out the second half and Foye was the quintessential part of it. He scored six points, assisted on three other baskets and grabbed two boards over the four and half minute span.

Sumpter also contributed on the boards ripping down nine in total.

The win was big for the ‘Cats as they stopped their one-game losing streak.

‘Nova will battle West Virginia this Saturday at the pavilion at 4:00 p.m. This game will be seen as a tune-up for the big game next Monday when Big 5 rival St. Joe’s comes to the Pavilion with the Big 5 championship on the line.

For more information on the game, turn to page 27.