‘Cats set scoring record on the road in 110-89 win

Leslie Combs

Last night Villanova shot the lights out of Rutgers defeating the Scarlet Knights in the daunting and somewhat ferocious Rutgers Athletic Center 110-89. The blowout put the ‘Cats atop the Big East East standings with an unblemished 4-0 conference record and 11-5 overall, while the Knights fell to 0-3 in league play and 8-7 for the year.

Taking a 10-0 lead in the first three minutes of play, ‘Nova’s continued offensive attack put the squad in the record books for scoring the most points ever on an opponent’s home court. The previous record was set Feb. 12, 1970 at St. Peter’s where they amassed 108 points.

“This was just one of those nights,” head coach Jay Wright said. “We just made everything. We haven’t done that in our two years at Villanova. I have been on the other side of these a lot.

“I can’t remember being on this side when just everyone makes every shot, every play works.”

The ‘Cats’ stellar shooting also made a mark on Rutgers’s historic stats with ‘Nova’s 110 points being the most ever scored at the RAC. The RAC is notorious for its bantering fans and loud acoustics, its atmosphere often intimidating the Knight’s opponents.

However, from the 8 p.m. tip-off it was clear ‘Nova’s game was not affected by the boisterous and often raucous red-dressed spectators.

“The one thing that I do like that our team is doing is … that we are starting to go into places and not worry about who we are playing and where we are playing, just worry about playing Villanova basketball,” Wright said. “I think that was a good step for us, especially doing it here at the RAC.”

Senior sharpshooter Gary Buchanan’s two threes in the first two minutes of play set the pace for the ‘Cats, who proved to be practically flawless from the perimeter, making nine of 14 in the first half and shooting .567 from the field overall.

“We were out of it to start the game,” Rutgers’ second year head coach Gary Waters said. “I have to give them credit, they continued to apply the pressure, but at the same time they gave the knockout punch. They didn’t let up.”

A large part of the ‘Cats successful domination in the first was due to sophomore Marcus Austin’s off-the bench performance that turned into the best outing of his collegiate career thus far. Playing smart and confident basketball, Austin led the team at the half with 13 points and five rebounds.

Returning from the locker room, the ‘Cats upped its 54-37 halftime lead to as much as a 32 point advantage before the Knights began a shooting spree of their own. In the final 7:05 of the game, Rutgers put up 32 points, but ‘Nova continued to make its shots as well, stifling the Knight’s comeback chance. Senior walk-on Tom Grace capped off the win for ‘Cats, draining a three in the game’s final seconds to lift the score to 110-89.

For the second straight Saturday six of the ‘Cats scored in double-digits, with seven men scoring from downtown, including senior forward’s Ricky Wright’s buzzer shot at the half.

“I thought we might have some nights like this where we just had guys make shots because we do have good shooters,” Coach Wright commented. “I didn’t think it would be like this.”

Buchanan led the ‘Cats in points with 27 and on the boards with 27, while Wright scored 18. Randy Foye added 15, while classmates Curtis Sumpter and Ray Allan each put up 11. Austin ended the night with 15 points and seven rebounds, a career high in both categories for the New Jersey native whose 15 minutes was also a record high in collegiate play.

“I have been saying this to our guys; Marcus Austin’s limited minutes aren’t indicative of his play,” Coach Wright said. “He has been playing well, we just have a lot more depth this year. That wasn’t as much of a surprise to us because he has been playing well in practice. We just have guys that play ahead of him.”

On Rutgers’ end, freshman Calvin Wooten put up a fierce fight, scoring a team high 24 points and was assisted by sophomore Ricky Shields 20. Together the Knights combined for .452 from the field.

Coming into the Saturday’s game, Rutgers had the second best defense in the Big East only to No. 3 Pittsburgh, and were accustomed to squelching its foe’s assailment at the basket. The ‘Cats success on the basket sequestered the Knights’ defensive attempt, but ‘Nova’s win came despite committing 25 turnovers in comparison to Rutgers’ 19, while the Knights successfully converted the ‘Cats errors into 31 points.

Despite having back-to-back dominating and convincing conferences wins on the road, defeating St. John’s in the Garden Jan. 15, 82-73, the ‘Cats must continue to work on eliminating its errors if they wish to remain triumphant in Big East action.

The ‘Cats next take on Boston College at the Pavilion Wednesday, with tip-off at 7:30 p.m.