‘Cats claw Terriers

Nate McGann


In  college basketball’s installment of the timeless rivalry between cats and dogs, the cats came out on top. And it wasn’t even close.

In last night’s second round NIT Season Tip-Off matchup between No. 7 Villanova and Boston University, the Wildcats handled the Terriers on both sides of the court and capped off their second win in as many days, 82-66. 


There was an unusual balance between the top-notch guard play that fans are used to and an improving frontcourt.


“This team has a chance to be a more traditional team,” Head Coach Jay Wright said. “There’s nothing tricky about what we’re doing, but it’s fun.”


For the first time in the young season, Villanova came out playing as well as its ranking said it should against probably its best opponent to date. 


In the first half, they spread the ball around on offense resulting in easy shots and a 16-point halftime lead. The team was equally as impressive on defense, holding a lethal shooting team to only 24 percent from the floor and 18 percent beyond the arc.


Four of Villanova’s starters scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Maalik Wayns’ 12 points and 12 assists. 


Wayns has made a point of late to improve his assist to turnover ratio. The stellar guard only turned the ball over once.


Wayns’ play, coupled with that of senior guard Corey Fisher’s, has made it easy on Wright to relax a bit more on the sideline. He’s even grown fond of sitting, something the fiery coach has almost never done in his career.


“I have great confidence in Maalik and Fish,” Wright said. “They call the plays, and they’re good at it.”

Senior forward Antonio Peña led all scorers in the game with 17 points. He added eight rebounds and gave the fans a glimpse of his abilities when he played aggressively.


“I was killing [Peña],” Wright said. “He’s a good player. We need him to be a killer, and he did a good job of that tonight.”


The Terriers’ two leading scorers, senior forward John Holland and freshman guard D.J. Irving were both held in check thanks to Villanova’s superior size and intensity. Irving only managed two points on 1-of-8 shooting, and Holland was 5-of-18 from the floor. 


The Terriers deserve some credit. Despite the score, they battled back in the second half to pull within 12 points before Villanova put the game away late. They also limited Villanova’s 3-point attempts, holding the Wildcats to a meager 8 percent on 1-of-8 shooting from deep. 


“You have to give [the Terriers] credit,” Wright said. “They took the 3 away with their zone. They’re deadly from 3, and we also did a good job. It’s no secret, but Pat knows us and he wanted to stop our 3s.”


Last night’s game marked the return of former Villanova Assistant Patrick Chambers, now the Terriers head coach, back to the Philadelphia area where he helped Wright’s staff guide this program on its memorable Final Four run two years ago. 


“It’s weird,” Chambers said when asked about being opposite the Villanova bench. “It’s strange, but I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot from Coach Wright and the Villanova program, but I love being on the other bench because I know they help put me here.”


Because of the familiarity Chambers has with this program and its current players, he was able to make game plans thoroughly, but with Villanova’s ability to drive to the lane, shoot from outside and dominate in the paint, it may have been unfair to expect him to defend everything. 


“They’re a top-10 team in the country,” Chambers said. “We knew they were going to drive the ball, and they still drove it down our throats. They really tried to penetrate. They did a good job.”


With the win, Villanova now travels to New York for a semifinal matchup with UCLA in Madison Square Garden. While the Bruins are currently in rebuilding mode, they still have athletes, and Wright expects a difficult fight. And UCLA is sure to remember the stomping Villanova gave them in the NCAA tournament two years ago.


“They’re good,” Wright said. “And they haven’t forgotten that game.”

Before that, however, the ‘Cats face Lafayette on Saturday night at 7 p.m. in The Pavilion.