Friday, December 19, 2014

Dick Jerardi |

AROUND THE CITY

'Cats get ranked team again

As much fun as Villanova's 102-point outburst against Notre Dame was to watch last Wednesday, the way the Wildcats beat Texas at the Wachovia Center is going to pay bigger dividends.

Villanova can't count on making every shot. The Wildcats can hope to play stifling defense and win. It worked last season to the tune of 28 victories and a run to the Elite Eight and it certainly worked against the No. 21 Longhorns for a 76-69 victory.

"That's got to be the foundation of our program and that's what you've got to build with the young guys," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They all can come in and score. You've got to teach them how to play defense first individually and then as a team . . . We'd watched film and four guys would do the right thing and one guy would make a mistake."

The 'Cats (13-5) made few defensive mistakes against Texas (13-5). Playing without Curtis Sumpter, sidelined with a deep bone bruise on his shin suffered against Notre Dame, the combination of Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham made Texas super freshman Kevin Durant appear invisible.

Durant had averaged 34 points over his last four games. He scored just 12 points, one in the second half. Unable to get near the rim without attracting a crowd, Durant settled mostly for jumpers, taking eight of his 15 shots from the three-point line.

People who came to see the kid who could play for the Sixers if the lottery goes that way instead forgot he was on the floor until Cunningham threw down a monster baseline dunk over the 6-9 Durant's head.

Aside from its defense, what you had to like about Villanova in consecutive wins against Top 25 teams is the aggressive way the Wildcats are starting to play. Point guard Scottie Reynolds was really good, fearlessly taking the ball to the rim. He followed up his career-high 27 points against the Irish with 26 against Texas.

Clark, who started for Sumpter, and Cunningham not only took care of Durant but also combined for 27 points and 18 rebounds.

"I think we're building an identity for this year, but when we watched the film from last year we saw how much of a fight they put up," said Clark, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds. "That's what we want to do."

By the way, neither 'Nova win last week was really an "upset." The Wildcats were favored in both games and proved more than worthy of that.

Dragons back on track

Drexel-Delaware has always been a great rivalry. One day it will be that again. These days, Bruiser Flint has the horses; his good friend Monte Ross does not.

Drexel (14-4, 6-2 Colonial) played well enough at the Bob Carpenter Center to win, 69-61. Delaware (3-16, 1-7) hung around as long as a team that has eight players could hang. Drexel, which shot 51.1 percent, got 19 points from Frank Elegar. Chaz Crawford had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four of the Dragons' eight blocks.

Delaware hung around because it made 21 of 25 free throws. Drexel won because it killed the smaller Blue Hens on the glass, 37-20.

After two consecutive losses, Drexel has righted the ship. This week will tell if it's clear sailing. They play at UNC Wilmington, where they have not won in five tries, on Wednesday, then play CAA leader Virginia Commonwealth (16-3, 8-0) at home Saturday after VCU visits George Mason. VCU, coached by Anthony Grant - who was on the bench with Billy Donovan when Florida won the 2006 national championship - is 7-0 on the road.

Chaney no help

John Chaney made his first appearance at a Temple game this season. It did not help the Owls, who fell behind by 19 early in the second half, made a big comeback and ultimately lost, 85-77, to Rhode Island at the Liacouras Center.

Temple (7-10, 1-4 Atlantic 10) got a career-high 31 from Dionte Christmas and 22 from Dustin Salisbery. It was not enough against the Rams (12-8, 5-1), who shot 51.7 percent and pulled off the rare A-10 exacta by winning at Saint Joseph's and Temple on consecutive Saturdays. Four consecutive opponents have shot 50 percent against the Owls.

At halftime, the 1986-87 Temple team - which finished 32-4, got to No. 5 in the polls and was a second seed in the NCAA Tournament - was honored. Chaney didn't want to go onto the court, but was persuaded and appeared to love it. Several players from that team were also there, including Mike Vreeswyk, Howie Evans and Darrin Pearsall.

Ivy Deal

Penn is the only unbeaten team in Ivy League play. Princeton is the only team without a win. The exit polls call this one for Penn.

ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Love those Cougars

Friel Court had its biggest crowd in 22 years as Washington State blew away Washington, 75-47, holding the Huskies 36 points below their average. Washington, 0-6 on the road, played without star freshman Spencer Hawes (ankle).

Free throws again

It is just amazing how many games are being decided by free throws.

Wisconsin was 18 of 21 from the line. Illinois was 14 of 23 in a seven-point loss.

Connecticut still has no good wins after losing, 77-73, in Hartford to Indiana. Huskies were 17 of 28 from the line. Hoosiers were 20 of 21. UConn killed IU on the glass, 38-22, but had just two treys to nine for IU.

Shoot 50 percent, lose by 20

That really should be difficult to do. It is not if you commit 21 turnovers, shoot 1-for-6 from the arc and allow your opponent to shoot 9-for-18 from deep. That is what Boston College, the last team unbeaten in ACC play, did at Clemson. Which is why they got crushed, 74-54.

Best comeback

Alabama trailed Georgia by 11 with 4 1/2 minutes left and won, 78-76, on Ronald Steele's off-balance 15-foot leaner at the

buzzer.

Sort of streaking

Kansas had won 10 straight before losing at Texas Tech, 69-64 . . .

Vanderbilt had lost 28 straight at Rupp Arena. Now the Commodores have won two straight there after beating Kentucky, 72-67. UK had won 11 straight.

Home streaks continue

Like Air Force, Brigham Young has won 26 straight at home. Gonzaga's home streak is 47.

Owns them

Duke has beaten North Carolina State 25 of the last 28 times, which is one reason Herb Sendek bolted for Arizona State. *

Dana O'Neil, Mike Kern and Bill Fleischman contributed to this report.

Send e-mail to jerardd@phillynews.com

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