Tonight, it was Villanova.
It wasn't to be. Bad news struck early as streaking Herve Lamizana picked up two fouls in the first minute of play and had to sit. 'Nova's combination of hot shooting and good pressure had the Wildcats out to an early 10-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game. Rutgers seemed helpless. RU had trouble just getting into the game and seemed totally bewildered by Villanova's pressure. By the five minute mark it was Wildcats over Rutgers 16-4. Gary Waters couldn't let that continue indefinitely and finally it was at the 12 minute mark that Waters, in a desperation move, was forced to put Herve back in the game. Seeming to respond to the move, Jerome Coleman hit two jumpers and Mike Sherrod a floater but hot three point shooting by the Wildcats kept them ahead 29-13 at the mid point of the first half, while a third foul put Herve right back on the bench.
Three three's by Calvin Wooten, however, temporarily stopped the bleeding for Rutgers but with six and a half to go 'Nova still led the Knights by 14. Three minutes later, however, the Cats were up by 20, with now both Lamizana and Wright on the bench each with three fouls.
The Knights staged a minor rally at the end of the first half but still Nova led 51-37 at the half by virtue of a last second three that seemed to be shot after the buzzer.
Villanova was 9 of 14 from three point range in the first half. A late second half steal and score by Calvin Wooten gave him 11 points to lead the Knights in scoring.
The second half opened up with more of the same and Nova, utilizing the three, soon was out ahead by 22. That was a harbinger. Rutgers simply had no answer for Nova's hot shooting and stifling defense. The Wildcats dominated on both sides of the ball and by eight minutes to go were ahead by 30 and looking for the Big East record for margin of victory (32).
Rutgers avoided that embarrassment. The Knights showed heart and used pressure defense late in the game to cut the score to 95-74 with three and a half to go, and then to 101-89 with just and minute and a half to go.
It was too little, too late. Villanova hung on to win the game 110-89.
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Mike Fasano: MikeFasano@comcast.net
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