Nova passes first 'test'

Some winning teams, you can judge by their statistics. Other winning teams, you can understand by watching on television. To judge at least one winning team in this town, you need to be in the gym.

Villanova will never dazzle you with stats or the beauty of its play. But if you take the time to watch the play away from the ball, see how nobody is ever left on a defensive island and concentrate on a player like Dante Cunningham who makes every little basketball play purists and coaches love, then you get the essence of the 2008-09 Wildcats.

On paper, Villanova (6-0) was to gets first real test of the season in the championship game of Saturday's Philly Hoop Group Classic Saturday night at the Palestra. Rhode Island (5-2) had lost only at Duke and that by three points.

Well, the 'Cats did get a test and they passed it nicely, beating the game Rams 78-65. `Nova shot just 25-for-62 (40.3 percent). The Cats missed 13 of 15 three-point attempts. But they got URI's front line in foul trouble, converted their free throws and defended their basket so well that the Rams were held 20 points below their average.

``We were really looking forward to this just to see where we are,'' Villanova coach Jay Wright said.