Angry 'Nova Comes Calling

Off to a surprisingly fast start, Rutgers may have been hoping it would be facing an overconfident Villanova squad Wednesday night. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, the Wildcats are unlikely to be overlooking anyone one game after suffering their first loss of the season.

Third-ranked Villanova (10-1, 1-1 Big East) appeared well on its way to an 11th straight win Sunday before squandering a double-digit, second-half lead in a 91-87 home loss to No. 24 West Virginia.

Though the Wildcats held a nine-point advantage at the break and led by as many as 15 early in the second half, the Mountaineers used pressure defense to rally for the win.

Villanova committed 22 turnovers to offset a 58 percent (29-for-50) shooting performance, losing for the first time since falling to eventual national champion North Carolina in the NCAA tournament.

"You saw an outstanding team come in here and just play better game than us," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I felt we were prepared and ready to play. I have to give West Virginia a lot of credit, they just made more intelligent plays and executed better longer in a great game."

The Wildcats have already beaten two top 10 opponents in then-No. 5 Oklahoma and then-No. 9 Louisville, and Rutgers (11-3, 1-0) may have hoped Villanova would be looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with eighth-ranked Texas. After the Wildcats' heartbreaking home defeat to a conference rival, however, there's little chance Villanova will be focused on anything but the Scarlet Knights as Wright's team looks to avoid a second straight loss.

"We've got to get better and take care of the ball," Wright said. "There were two teams that trapped us and we've turned the ball over, it happened even against Temple, they were another team that trapped a lot and we turned it over. Even when we were winning we said we were a work in progress. We still have to get a lot better and I think that was proven (Sunday)."

Quincy Douby scored 29 points as Rutgers opened Big East play with an 82-78 victory over visiting Seton Hall on Saturday.

Freshman Anthony Farmer added 17 points, three assists and two blocked shots, but the Scarlet Knights didn't seal the win until Adrian Hill hit two foul shots with 3.6 seconds left. J.R. Inman added 14 points and five blocks for Rutgers, which already has one more victory than it managed all of last season.

Douby, a junior guard, leads the Big East with 23.8 points per game and has scored at least 20 in seven straight games. He is the only Scarlet Knight averaging double figures in scoring.

The Wildcats feature a much more balanced attack, led by senior guards Randy Foye (21.0 points per game) and Allan Ray (19.4). Junior guard Mike Nardi adds 13.1 points per contest to give Villanova one of the deepest backcourts in the nation.

"You look at the great teams and all the great teams went 30-1, 30-2. They took a loss," Foye said Monday. "You've got to learn when you lose in the beginning, you just have to learn from it. You can never let it be a setback. If it's a setback, you can lose five, six games in a row."

Rutgers, off to its best start since 1982-83, will be looking to avenge last season's 94-61 home defeat to Villanova, its worst in the 27-year history of the Rutgers Athletic Center.

Ray led the Wildcats with 21 points in that meeting, while Douby was held scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting.

Villanova has won 20 of 27 matchups with Rutgers and ended a two-game losing streak in the series with last season's blowout win.

RUTGERS (11-3, 1-0 BE) vs No. 3 VILLANOVA (10-1, 1-1 BE)

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2006 • 7:00 P.M.



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