‘Cats cage Huskies on home court



Cailin Brophy

Those who think the “madness” of college hoops is most prevalent in March obviously haven’t watched much Villanova basketball this season.

In the latest outing of a team that has had fans scratching their heads in bewilderment almost all season, the Wildcats rekindled the NCAA tourney flame in front of over 16,000 at the First Union Center Saturday, defeating Connecticut, 79-70.

In what had turned into the battle for supremacy in the Big East’s East division, ‘Nova emerged victorious over the Huskies, avenging a loss at the hands of UConn earlier in the season. With the win, the ‘Cats improve to 14-9 overall, with a 7-3 record in conference play. Meanwhile the Huskies, who had been ranked as high as eighth this season and were ranked 22nd at the time they played Villanova, fall to 15-6 overall, with a 6-4 mark in the Big East.

Villanova was able to upend the Huskies despite being outrebounded and sinking less field goals.

The ‘Cats won the turnover battle, committing a season-low eight turnovers compared the UConn’s 24, as well as recording an impressive 27-for-33 mark from the free throw line.

The ‘Cats were also paced by the fine play of guard Gary Buchanan. The senior sharpshooter found himself in the zone early and often against the Huskies. Buchanan scored 28 points on the afternoon, hitting eight of 17 shots from the field, six of which came from beyond the three-point arc, while going a perfect six-for-six from the charity stripe. Classmate and fellow captain Ricky Wright was the only other Wildcat in double figures, scoring 13 points and hauling down nine rebounds.

“When I’m making shots, my team just has the confidence to keep giving me the ball,” Buchanan said of his performance.

His was a confidence that culminated in a total team effort, evidenced by the fact that the ‘Cats enjoyed their largest lead, a 10-point margin, in the waning moments of the contest, snuffing out the chance for a Husky run while giving themselves and their fans a chance to breath a little easier upon leaving the arena.

With the spectre of selection Sunday lurking around the corner, the Wildcats will need to finish the season strong and hope for a good run in the Big East tourney if they want to participate in the Big Dance.

The Big East isn’t likely to get more than five bids, and in a conference which has a short list of both dominant and weak teams, the battle for an invite could get downright fierce. ‘Nova’s chance to continue on its success against the Huskies and perhaps begin to separate itself against cross-over foe Seton Hall was postponed due to inclement weather. The game has been rescheduled for Feb. 27at 7:30 p.m. The game will played at Continental Airlines Arena and will be the ‘Cats second game in three days, as they will play Miami on Tuesday.

For now, the Wildcats will focus on their road matchup Saturday against Providence, whom they defeated earlier in the season. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Rhode Island.