Villanova outlasts stubborn Columbia

Posted: December 23, 2003

Columbia, an Ivy League squad dominated by underclassmen that was 2-25 last season, visited the Pavilion last night and gave Villanova fits in a nonleague contest played before 6,500 spectators.

The well-drilled Lions did not allow their higher-profile hosts to get comfortable all night, at least not until guards Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Mike Nardi sank clutch free throws to seal the 74-66 victory.

Foye finished with 20 points, Ray with 19, and Nardi with 14.

Villanova didn't separate itself from the visitors until baskets by Foye, Nardi and forward Curtis Sumpter - who finished with 16 points - helped the Wildcats turn a 40-38 edge into a 48-38 lead with 13 minutes, 19 seconds left.

The rest of the way, Columbia fought and scrapped behind the play of forwards Dragutin Kravic and Matt Preston, and guard Allan MacQuarrie.

Kravic finished with 17 points, Preston with 13, and MacQuarrie with 11.

The Wildcats led by 70-66 with 1:01 left. Their trio of guards closed out the scoring from the free-throw line, with Foye and Ray each making one of two attempts before Nardi was good on two of two.

Villanova, which led by a point at intermission, is 7-2. Columbia slipped to 2-5.

"Thank God it's a win," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "There's not much more positive to say about it. You play at home and you want to take it to somebody. They took it to us from the beginning."

The contest marked the return of Joe Jones, who is in his first year as head coach at Columbia after spending the previous six years as an assistant under Steve Lappas and Wright at Villanova.

Jones, who also was on Wright's staff at Hofstra from 1994 to 1997, was the only holdover assistant when Lappas left for Massachusetts and Wright took over in 2001.

Before the player introductions, Jones was presented with a plaque commemorating his time at Villanova. Jones and his brother, Yale coach James Jones, are the first set of brothers to coach in the same Division I conference in almost 40 years.

"Jay called me at about 11 [a.m.], right before our shootaround," said Jones, who had a hand in recruiting many of the players who make up Villanova's roster. "I told him that this sounded like a good idea in April, but it didn't seem like such a good idea today."

For the second straight game, Villanova welcomed back a player who had yet to suit up this season.

Center Jason Fraser, who returned to the Wildcats on Dec. 12 and played nine minutes in a win over Northeastern, was in only briefly last night after tweaking a knee.

Meanwhile, guard Derrick Snowden was available after recovering from knee surgery in August and serving a three-game suspension for his role in the unauthorized use of a university telephone access code late last season.

Snowden did not get into the game.

"There's not too many times a team comes in and slices you up and you feel good for the guys," Wright said, alluding to Jones. "I think that team came in here and played harder than us."

Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum

at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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